The Translation Project

In Inspiration, Mobile

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Like so many of the other ViewFinders, (and probably many of you) somewhere in late November and all through December, I started to think and ponder and dig around for a new project to start in 2016. I wasn’t really coming up with anything.

I quickly found my word for the year (nourish) and have already felt it become a part of my daily vernacular and practice. But I could feel the need for a photographic project calling to me. I sort of – kind of thought I might want to do another self portrait project but was worried that I had explored that one so much in the past that it wasn’t worth it.

Two years in a row I snapped a self portrait, by the end of that second round I was pretty burnt out despite all I had learned about myself and photography during the process, I didn’t really want to see me popping up in the frame each day. (If you would like to see previous self portrait work you can go to this set and this set.)
Then, Catherine Just tossed out a free ten day teaser for her self portrait class called, Self Portrait as Medicine. A single word each day to inspire, to stir, to set the creative wheels spinning.  Taking Catherine’s full class that proceeded this 10 day warm up wasn’t in the cards for me this time around… but she had stirred something deep in me to awake. Those first ten days of the year allowed my self-portrait practice to stir from under the covers and it had me sitting up straight in my metaphorical creative bed wanting more. (If you are interested to see what I have and others have done with her words, look up the hashtag on Instagram, #selfportraitasmedicine). One thing I really liked was watching as the community interpreted each word into an image. As I was thinking about what it was exactly that got me going it was this- a single word translated visually by so many people. What one word triggered in me to create could be identical of complete opposite for another. 

How could I keep this going?

So I did what you do in this social media world. I posted the following onto my Facebook page: ” I need your help. I think I have found my project for the year, but I need words. Would you leave me a single word (not a phrase, but a word) that I, will in turn, create into a photography”?

By the next morning I had over 140 words.

One hundred and forty words for me to translate into a self portrait photography project. One word picked randomly from the list each day. (at this point, I am using my iPhone 6s and have settled, as I have in the past, with processing each image in black and white -usually using the VSCO preset B6, tweaked to my liking).
Some of the words people listed were silly, some serious, some I will need a dictionary to know how to proceed. Many of my friends and family pick a word for the year, and they gave me their word (which I am touched to now have as a part of my year).  Some will be easy and some will challenge me deeply. What I love about the list is that I had to ask for help. I had to be open and willing enough to say, “I am starting something, but I can’t do it alone”. This is a huge step for me in my creative life. It also puts a little bit of pressure on (the good kind) that I will need to return to these participants with my image(s).

If something makes you excited and uncomfortable, it’s worth exploring. And this project gives me ALL the feels.

I am calling this year’s self portrait series, The Translation Project. You can follow along with me on my personal Instagram account or by searching the hashtag, #thetranslationproject . I have already been asked if I will post the list of words somewhere, or will I share the word each morning so others can play along… I just don’t know the answer to that. Maybe. And if the word I share triggers or inspires you, go for it!
As I think back through past projects, I realize I do better when they happen organically. If I force NEEDING a project, it probably won’t happen or last very long. But if I am patient and listen carefully for the call from inside… well, things start to click. It’s like when you have writers block and you take a walk or go about your chores – all the words come rushing in beautifully. I hope this  inspires you all to explore and LISTEN to what your creativity is needing and wanting this year. And, even if you think a phase is over, if it keeps calling to you, stop and ask why? What work needs to be done that hasn’t been done before?

Still stuck? We have so many great ideas brewing out here. Other 2016 ViewFinder projects can be found by checking out these links:  Leslie asked all of you to share your projects here. Debbie talks about here word for the year here. Kirstin talks about recharging her digital batteries and gives ideas for you to do the same here. Holly is making space over here. Angie has us following along with her over here. And, Debra is finding here rhythm over here.

Whoa you guys, that’s a heck of a lot of inspiration! now get out there, do your work, tag your images with our hashtag (#viewfindersio) and start creating!

Keep chasing that light, Vanessa


PS Do you have a word for me to add to the list? Leave a comment and a word for me!


  1. This is going to be absolutely brilliant, I already know it! And so much fun to watch!

  2. This- “But if I am patient and listen carefully for the call from inside… well, things start to click.” You are beautiful- and this post really shows just how deep that beauty goes.

  3. Oh, I can’t wait to watch this unfold. And thanks for the recap of all the inspiration to be found here! xoxo

    • We have had so many amazing ideas for this year over here. It was awesome to toss them all into to here and really SEE them all together at once!


  4. Brilliant, Vanessa! My word for the year is Savor. Would love to see your translation of that word!

  5. you are amazeballs… i have been flabbergasted by your work… your interpretation and dedication!!! i love knowing how much this feeds you. xoxo

    • Thank you Beth. Each time I think, “I can skip today, this word is too hard” I push through and keep shooting until I come up with something that I like. It’s like a rough draft that I keep working over and over.

  6. I love how you found your project through deep listening and allowing the organic idea process to flow! Here are a few words for you: smile, water, jazz. xH

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