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“Strong is the New Pretty”: Making sure my girls know who they are is enough. Something that needs to be heard. And heard again – Kate T Parker, Photographer

Kate T Parker

Kate T Parker is a photographer who lives and shoots outside Atlanta, Georgia. Her images are distinct, heavy in their contrast and very dark in their processing, but she uses this to capture a sense of honesty and truth in her subjects while not taking life too seriously. Earlier in 2014 her photographs caused a global social media sensation when her project “Strong Is the New Pretty,” depicting her daughters’ strength, power and confidence resonated with parents of daughters around the world.

Kate T Parker
Kate T Parker

“…I want to make sure my girls know that who they are is enough…”

I am a mom of little girls, which is alternately the most amazing and the hardest job in the world.

Society gives young girls and women a lot of ideas about what is acceptable for how they act, look and even feel. I want to make sure my girls know that who they are is enough.

Kate T Parker

Being a soccer player or bug collector is just as good as being a dancer or a princess

They don’t need to have their hair done, clothes matching, or even have clean fingernails to be loved and accepted. That being a soccer player or bug collector is just as good as being a dancer or a princess. Each is equally good and worthy.

Their father and I love them just as they are. Loud, dirty, athletic, competitive…just as my parents loved me for being the exact same way.

Growing up, I was a total tomboy. I refused dresses, pink, or anything remotely feminine. I was only interested in soccer and being exactly like my big brothers, and this was 100 percent encouraged by my parents.

No need to be more “girlie” to be loved or accepted

I was never made to feel like I needed to be more “girlie” to be loved or accepted. As a former collegiate soccer player, I was lucky enough to grow up with some amazingly strong females that all felt the same way.

What our bodies did and how they performed on the field mattered more to us than how they looked. As a mother and a photographer, I wanted to show this strength. And I wanted to show it, the best way I knew how, through my photography.

Initially, this project started as a desire to record my daughters and the memories of their childhood, as well as practice with my camera and different lighting situations, environments, times of day, etc.

Authentically captured

Kate T ParkerAfter about a year or so, it organically grew into something different. The images changed. I started to see patterns and recognise that the images where the girls were authentically captured were the strongest images.

The images that showed the girls as they genuinely are were my favourites. After seeing this, I started to shoot with that in mind.

Not only OK, but worthy of celebration

The project became about capturing my girls and their friends as they truly are and how that is OK. Not only OK, but worthy of celebration. There’s a lot of pressure for girls (and women) to look a certain way or act in a certain manner, and I wanted to let my daughters know that who they naturally are is enough.

The message that I’d like people to take away from my project is to encourage little girls to celebrate who they are — whoever they are!

If your daughter is obsessed with pink, princesses, and ballet, amazing! Or if she is a soccer playing, tough-as-nails bookworm, great!

Be who they are, whatever that is

Kate T ParkerAllow your girls to be who they are, whatever that is. Create an environment for them to feel secure and confident in their own selves. Let them know that whatever it is, whoever they are, that’s OK. And not only is it OK, it’s great.

Encouraging strength, confidence, kindness, as well as toughness

Being a mother of little girls only cemented this belief even more. Encouraging strength, confidence, kindness, as well as toughness was the path we decided upon when we started raising our girls. This feeling and sentiment bled over into my photography where oftentimes everything is beautiful or photoshopped to look perfect.

Emotions that make up childhood

I wanted to show the beauty, uniqueness, and strength of my girls (and their friends) in the imperfect. Messy hair, dirty faces, brave, angry, joyous, whatever is was… I wanted to capture it. All these emotions make up childhood.

I think that great things are happening with how women are seen these days. The Lean In movement has been a boon for professional women. Books turned movies like Divergent and The Hunger Games show younger women as heroes, but I’d love something for younger girls to have as their own. Maybe these images can spark that conversation.

Overwhelming reaction

Kate T ParkerThe reaction to this project has been more than overwhelming. To be featured on outlets like the Huffington Post, NPR and the Daily Mail is hard for me, living in my small world here in Georgia, coaching soccer, being a mom, taking pictures, to wrap my head around.

Something that needs to be heard. And heard again

I am so thankful and honoured to help get this message out there… It is something that needs to be heard. And heard again. I feel it is so important and the more ways we can hear it, see it and feel it, the better.

My girls have not really reacted to this at all; it’s all old news to them. The only thing that they actually reacted to was hearing one of the images would be a on a t-shirt… Now, that was cool!