The Identity Shift Project (TISP) brings new perspectives to healing through artistic collaboration with people experiencing significant life change. We provide people with a medium for creative exploration through which they can redefine their identity. Identity Shifts happen through a transformation and are integral to healing. For example, one might shift from being “a cancer case” to transcending that label with a renewed definition of self as a “marathon runner.” TISP provides these creative explorations free of charge to participants for inclusion in our online gallery and published body of work.

Types of Identity Shifts and forms of collaborative art making are countless. Identity Shifts people experience could occur in the areas of health, social status, gender, family and relationships, economic class, education, or developmental life milestones.  Art forms used in collaborative art making might include photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, or performance—in the physical world and online. Collaboration solidifies an identity shift by acknowledging it; together we create an expression of a participant’s internal shift so that it may be perceived in the external world.

One Identity Shift + one type of Art Form + Collaboration = an Identity Shift Exploration. These Explorations become a powerful declaration of self as well as a testament to the human capacity for change.  By sharing them with others we give faces and stories to the different types of Identity Shifts, as well as empower, educate and inspire others who are going through similar experiences.  Ultimately an individual’s Identity Shift is crystallized in the context of others witnessing and recognizing it.

Current Projects: Identity Shift Explorations

Cancer + Photography = Cancer Shift. The first Identity Shift Exploration we launched with is Cancer Shift, a series of portraits of people who have or have had cancer and no longer identify exclusively with their disease.This Exploration in ongoing and currently accepting participants.

Hurricane Sandy + Photography = Climate Shift. The second Identity Shift Exploration we started is  Climate Shift, a series of portraits of people who have been adversely affected by Hurricane Sandy.

We provide the photographer, structure and support for participants to design a unique photo shoot with them as the subjects. The shoot generates a series of images, which conveys participant identity shifts. Each person’s photographs show who they are now and will become part of a larger narrative of growth and change that we all eventually face in one form or another.

We have additional Explorations that are in the early planning stages and will share more about them as they progress.


In May 2011 Jessica Safran was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer. As part of dealing with the shock and implication of that diagnosis, she compulsively documented herself through digital photography – to record her drastic and rapid change in appearance and to soothe herself by staying curious about her experience. In August 2011, while struggling with the debilitating effects of her chemotherapy, she asked close friend and fine art photographer Julie Hassett Sutton to photograph her without her wig. She was determined not be isolated and mortified because of her illness and appearance. Jessica decided she wanted her 6-year-old daughter and 6-month-old nephew present during the shoot, and also determined how she wanted to look. When Julie showed Jessica the resulting photos, Jessica was struck by the person in those photos. “I’m not as frightening to look at as I’d thought and don’t look as weak as I’d felt before the shoot,” she told Julie. The photos made her feel strong.

Then Julie asked the key question: “Do you think others might benefit from doing something like this?

The answer to that question is The Identity Shift Project.


To learn more about the women behind TISP, view Founder Bios.