Strong is the New Pretty!

I recently came across photographer Kate Parker’s work on Instagram and was SO inspired, actually obsessed. Her empowering photo series Strong is the New Pretty showcases her two young daughters and their friends in all manner of tough, strong, funny, frustrated and wildly happy. As a mom of two girls (which has its daily challenges), Kate’s powerful message reminded me to embrace and nurture all of the emotions my girls throw my way. I know it’s my job to teach my kids that success comes in all shapes and sizes and that there may be bumps along the road to reaching their goals. Kate’s beautifully raw and powerful images will hopefully spark girls everywhere to become the confident individuals they were born to be. 2014-03-29_00102014-03-29_00172013-05-22_0001 Your photos are so amazing, capturing the grit, spirit and joy of the girls in your life, how do you feel training your camera on your girls is helping others? Thank you!  That's my hope with this project.  There's a message in these images.  A message of strength, confidence and empowerment for young girls.  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. If your daughter is obsessed with pink, princesses, and ballet, amazing! Or if she is a soccer playing, tough-as-nails bookworm, great! Allow 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.  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. 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. What gave you the idea for this series? I was working on getting my images together for a gallery show here in Atlanta.  I was gathering all the ones I loved, the ones that resonated with me to submit for the gallery space.  I was culling, editing and rediting images to present a cohesive body of work from my 365 project on my girls (A 365 project is one where you shoot daily for a year).   I ended up with about 45 images that I really loved and all focused on my girls and their friends.   After the show,  I had strong, curated group of images that I submitted to a few media outlets with no specific uniting theme besides they were mostly of my girls and their friends being themselves.  Mary Alice Stephenson, the writer from the Huffington Post, asked me a question that made it all click for me.  She liked the images, but wanted to know if I had a charity or cause that I worked with that I wanted her to highlight in this series of work.  Was there a deeper story there?  Immediately, I knew what it was.  The strength, confidence and powerful images that were there were the ones that I wanted to highlight and thanks to her "Strong is the New Pretty" was born.  There were so many images showing the girls as real, as themselves, as confident and powerful young women. 2014-03-29_0019 As women in the mommy arena, we encounter the same pressures on the confidence front as our daughters, what have you learned from your girls? They just don't care about what they look like.  My kids don't worry about whether their clothes match or are even clean, to be honest.  Hair brushing is optional.  Bodies are for playing soccer, making up silly dances and cuddling.  Dessert is wonderful.  We grow up and start to dislike our bodies and find more what is wrong with them than what is right.  These are all things I need to remember.  I love that they ground me in that way. Kids often go through the “Don’t take my picture phase” when they make a goofy face or block the camera with their hand. Do you embrace that reluctance and take the picture anyway or try to encourage them to bust out of their self-conciousness? My kids are not yet at the self conscious phase yet, but they are still over mom and her camera.  Let's just say I am not above bribing anyone to get the shot.  Dolla bills and/or candy are handed out fairly regularly to "just do that thing you were just doing one more time, please".  What would you say to girls struggling with feeling like they aren’t pretty or smart or cool enough? I know this sounds trite, but as a photographer who sees and shoots kids all the time and who's job it is to find the beauty in the everyday, everyone has something special about themself.  Something unique.  Something wonderful.  That's what I look for when trying to capture someone.   Look at yourself with new eyes. Try to talk to yourself as a friend would.  Be kind to yourself.  Find in yourself what makes you special and unique and celebrate it.  Get better at it.  Be the best at it. See where it takes you. Do you have a favorite photo in the series? I do.   love the one of my daughter right before her first triathlon.  She has such confidence in that image.  It gives me chills when I look at it.  I want her to carry that same confidence with her throughout her life.  My hope is that this image can always remind her of how confident she was before that race and give her strength she needs when she might not be feeling as brave or fearless about something in the future. 2014-03-29_0003 if you want to check out this and other amazing photographs from kate, go to 2014-03-29_0015
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