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Julie Hassett Sutton and Jessica Safran, Co-Founders of The Identity Shift Project.

“I feel a lump.”

“Our business was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.”

“Your tour of duty is complete.”

It can all change in a moment – in the time it takes to utter a sentence. We’ve all had this experience at one time or another in the context of other life narratives; maybe, for example, one of these:

“You’re hired.”


“I want a divorce.”

There are countless identity shifts happening all the time. What’s yours?

While we can make an external change in seconds, which could mean a change in status or position, the internal transition within a person takes a lot longer, especially when a new role, skill set, or way of being requires a shift in patterns of thinking and behavior. An Identity Shift is a person’s internal transition triggered by the external change. This transition is inherently challenging, because reconfiguring yourself and then having others actually see who you are now is hard.

Change is hard. Shift happens. Welcome to our blog.

In the blog, we go behind the scenes at our photo shoots, profile our participants, and report on relevant events, products, services, projects, people or trends related to our work. Join our mailing list to subscribe to our blog and to receive general updates on The Identity Shift Project events and activities (you can do so at the lower right of this page right now if you’d like).

With this post we are moving to the next level of the Identity Shift Project. We’ve upgraded the site and added new Gallery content. We’re also applying for grants and building our presence, online and off. We’ve updated our mission, too:

The Identity Shift Project (TISP) brings new perspectives to healing through collaborative art making with people who experience significant life change.

The Identity Shift Project began as a very personal project, accidentally prototyped when I started chemotherapy in 2011 and had my dear friend Julie photograph my sick bald self with my (at that time) six-year-old daughter as part of the shoot. I wanted her and my infant nephew there with me to declare that I wasn’t wasting away from chemo, but still a mother and an aunt. The presence of the children was a healing one for me. Planning, conducting and seeing results of the shoot were galvanizing. I’d describe my Identity Shift in this way:


The most important part of our process is collaboration with our participants. An Identity Shift doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires relationship and conversation to crystallize. If you’re the only one who knows about your Identity Shift, then it’s a secret – and in any case, we assert, incomplete.

The Identity Shift Project teaches us about countless forms of resilience, and we’re learning that resilience wants more exposure. We’re transitioning from a personal to a public project. We’ll need help. We’re passionate about using art to serve others. We’re humbly willing to operate at a larger scale—and maybe even change a cultural conversation about healing in all its myriad forms.

4 Responses on “What’s an Identity Shift, and why should you care?

  1. Christine Headley |

    Congratulations on the development of this fantastic project. I feel honored to read the journeys of others- we all have one or several. All the best!

  2. jen taylor |

    Great to read about your awesome project. Im sorry to hear that youve been ill but it sounds like you have a beautiful positive attitide! Our daughters are around the same age. Would love to catch.up. Love, Jen

    1. Jessica Safran |

      Thanks Jen!
      It’s always great to know when people like what we’re doing. As for staying positive, there’s nothing like having an attitude of gratitude and being of service to others to fuel that. Sometimes just having an attitude works too. :-)

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