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8 Breathtaking, Heart-Stopping Online Projects That Will Change How You See People Forever

Updated on May 29, 2014

The web is an ocean of information. Every day a new site pops up that looks identical to the rest of the waves in that ocean. It can become overwhelming, tiring, exhausting as a reader to try to stay interested in traveling this world. And yet, every once in awhile, a project pops up online that is so inspiring it makes you want to get back into your boat and explore further.

Here is a roundup of eight amazing online projects that are each collecting photos and stories that are heart-pumping, inspirational, aspirational and life-changing. They make you see the people around you in a new way. They touch at the deep still waters of humanity beneath the undulating waves of other information. They grasp you and make you want to do something, be something, say something. These are the sites that make you glad to keep surfing.


1. What I Be Project.

This heart-breaking, heart-warming online photography project uses text-on-bodies to show people in their most vulnerable, and yet their most empowered, state. Each person is photographed with words written on their body that reveal their deepest insecurities.

It is impossible not to be moved by the young women staring out at you through the words “cut to control”, the slight smile on the woman whose words have moved from repulsed, through anxiety, anorexia, cutting and now reached “grounded” or the boy whose fingers simply read “homo”.

The images are organized into various categories (ability, body image, death, depression, sexuality, promiscuity/chaste, race and substance abuse are just a handful of the options). Each category is filled with stunning images. Mouse over any image and see a brief statement elaborating on the image. (Mouse over the aforementioned “homo” photo, for example, and you’ll see “I am not my masculinity.”) Click in to access a deeper story.

This website reminds you that each of us has a difficult journey to traverse. It reminds you that your insecurities are insecurities that other people share. It encourages you to be kinder to others and kinder to yourself.


2. A Beautiful Body Project

The tagline on this website explains it best, so I’ll quote: “A women’s media platform, book series and collective of female photographers dedicated to therapeutic truthful photos, videos and stories to help build self-esteem in current and future generations of women and girls.” Wow.

What you’ll find here is a set of deep, touching images of real women going through real things - things that are terrifying, amazing and sometimes very common. The images are accompanied by uplifting, inspiring, heart-palpitating stories of real life. For example there is the beautiful, happy, peaceful photo of the woman whose story is titled “2 Children, 16 Tattoos and Stretchmarks Free a Mother from Self-Cutting, Self-Hate and Depression.”

This website is in blog format, offering you the opportunity to browse and read a variety of material on an ongoing basis. You can add your own comments and reactions to the information if you want. And you can learn how to participate by sharing your own body’s story. What you see here just might make you feel brave enough to do that.


3. The Identity Project: What Defines You

This GLBTQ photo project uses images and brief phrases to explore how people use different labels to self-identify. It really explains, in very brief and visual terms, how gender is not binary in this society even though we still live in a time when it’s common to be asked to check the “male” or “female” box. It also shows in a powerful way how love between two people can be defined in many different ways.

This online project is amazing in part because it gives voice to the many different ways that a person may choose to self identify. Bearded gay, brainy gender queer drag king, cub, and gender blind femme bottom” are just a few of the choices. The portraits – all clothed, all black and white – show a stunning array of personalities and personal choices.

This project is also amazing because it shows the variety of relationship choices available and present in society, choices that are often overlooked or underrepresented or judged. I remember being so inspired in my early teens by the quote: “It doesn’t matter who you love, it matters that you love”. I am inspired now by this same sentiment and by the beauty of self-defined loved. Engayged, girlfriends, husband and wife, legally married, Mommy and Daddy, and steadies are just a few of the choices available here.

What really makes the project amazing, at its core, though, is that it shows each and every one of us that we have the right, ability and even the responsibility to define our own identities and our own relationships. This is a powerful thing. Don’t take it forgranted.


4. Jan Banning Photography

This photographer’s website reveals an amazing collection of works that go beyond just any old photography and really tell the stories of people, communities and the world. In the gallery you’ll find collections that will stop you in your tracks. The gripping images are accompanied by educational information about each project as well as written or audio information about each individual that has been photographed.

Down and Out in the South, for example, is a series of photographs about homelessness. The images are spine-tingling; they show the real humanity of the people being photographed rather than some cliché attempt at what we think “homelessness” should mean. The description shares the truths about this difficult situation in a poetic way. The individual audio interviews provide more information. Amazing.

Other sets in the gallery include Comfort Women (Asian women who were raped and forced into sex slavery in WWII), The Face of Poverty (capturing the stories of people living in Dickson Village in Malawi, Africa, and Bureaucratics (“a comparative photographic study of the culture, rituals and symbols of state civil administrations and its servants in eight countries on five continents”). Powerful work that will make you want to do more with your own skills in this world.


5. The Body Narratives

This is an online, ongoing collection of the voices of Women of Colour and how they relate to their own bodies and “embodied experiences”. They accept photos, writing, videos and other art to share as a form of self-expression relating to the journey of understanding the body. It’s a project that is designed to help women through the experience of having their bodies seen, judged, (mis)handled, etc.

From the site: “In collecting a diverse range of women of colour’s voices (across race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, geographic location, able-bodiedness and gender identities) and mediums, we hope to create a restorative body of work spiritually, emotionally, physically, and intellectually that heals.” It is an inspiring project and one that will help you see your body and the bodies of others in a new, more empowering, light.


6. The Portrait Project

This is a unique online portrait project that profiles a beautiful collection of New York women. This niche of the women’s world in America actually touches upon the humanity in all of us.

Each image links to a couple of bold photos (great use of shadow and light by these photographers), a written Q&A that highlights the personalities and quirks of the women photographed and a video interview sharing their stories.

This one is yet another reminder that each of us has an amazing individual story to share and that sharing it matters.


7. The Self Portrait Project

This is another New York photo project that reaches through the heart of experience and touches a cord of truth in images. It is a physical photo booth that is set up in such a way that the individual has control over how and when to create the photograph.

The creator of this project explains on the site: “In the simple act of letting the model be photographer, the dynamic of the photo changes - as does the energy - and therefore the final image. Giving someone who is accustomed to having their picture "taken" the opportunity to document their own likeness under their own terms produces images that address issues of vanity and insecurity, empowerment and self-awareness, superficiality and substance. As the photographer *and* model, you are wholly responsible for the images you create of yourself.”

This one is all about asking the questions of how do you see yourself, how do you want the world to see you and what does it mean if those two things don’t match up.


8. Child Labor and the Global Village: Photography for Social Change

This is a collection of works from 11 photographers who are traveling the world and photographing child workers in order to raise awareness about this social issue. We may be aware that the items that we purchase could have come from a place where child labor but these photos make us stop in our tracks and look at what that really means and who it is really impacting. The photos are accompanied by personal stories about the kids, awareness education about the conditions and information on the locations where the photographs were taken. I dare you to look at this project and not be moved.


Submit a Comment
  • CorneliaMladenova profile image

    Korneliya Yonkova 

    4 years ago from Cork, Ireland

    So interesting and informative article :)

  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 

    4 years ago from Long Island, NY

    I spent a lot of time reading various stories on some of these sites you referred to, constantly coming back to your hub to continue. You're right about them, they all have stories about people's lives that make us appreciate what we have. Breathtaking indeed!

  • B. Leekley profile image

    Brian Leekley 

    4 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

    I agree that these photographs collectively broaden the concept of neighbor, of fellow earthling. Shared.


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