Strong is the New Pretty: Kate Parker’s Fearless Femininity

Kate Parker’s heart-warming, energetic photography series showcases what it means to be a girl nowadays. She turned her lens on her daughters as a way to encourage them to escape the stereotypes imposed on young girls and celebrate their strengths and interests. She says, ‘My girls are strong, loud, crazy, silly…as a mother and photographer, I celebrate them.’

Photographer Kate T. Parker first started shooting her daughters Ella (9) and Alice (6) with the hope of teaching them that ‘Whatever you are…that’s Okay…You don’t need to be pretty, perfect, or compliant to be loved.’ Parker used this message to empower her girls when she started taking their pictures three years ago.

Initially, the project started as a desire to record her daughters and the memories or their childhood, as well as practice with her camera and different lighting situations, environments, and times of day. However, after a year or so, it organically grew into something different. Parker recognized that the images where the girls were authenticallycaptured were the strongest.

As a former college soccer player, sports have always played a huge role in Kate’s life, a passion that she’s clearly passed on to her girls. She feels that bodies should be celebrated for strength rather than attractiveness; it is what they are able to do that makes them beautiful: ‘There is so much emphasis on how we look that I love the opportunity to think about my body in terms of function.’

Her message to her daughters is to ‘be strong, be yourself, be honest and celebrate who you are.’ She feels we should encourage every girl to ‘be an athlete, be loud, be a leader.’ Parker wants to portray the message that you never need to be ‘girly’ to be loved or accepted. She wanted to empower her girls by encouraging strength, confidence, kindness, and toughness.

Parker’s photography is an antidote to what we often see – stereotypically beautiful girls photoshopped to perfection. This photo series shows the beauty, uniqueness, and strength of her girls and their friends as they truly are – ‘messy hair, dirty faces, angry, joyous – whatever it was, I wanted to capture it.’

Parker is passionate about encouraging females to ‘be themselves and own their power.’ She hopes to show through her photography what wonderful, unique individuals her daughters are. She believes that ‘it is important for girls to know their strengths and know their voice.’

Her photos epitomize the overlooked ‘fearlessness’ in young girls. She says, ‘There’s a lot of pressure for girls (and women) to look a certain way, act in a certain manner and I wanted to let my daughters know that who they naturally are is enough.’

Parker’s favorite photo of Ella is before her first triathlon. She was nervous and unsure of herself, so Kate wanted to show her eldest how she looked through her mom’s eyes – ‘strong, confident, and completely badass.’

Parker has also created a fascinating photo series about a group of 7th grade girls inGeorgia who challenge gender roles by playing football against the local boys every weekend. She uses these images to show girls, and women, that character, bravery, athleticism, and strength are more beautiful than prescribed views of beauty.

Parker’s photos celebrate who her daughters are, not how others expect them to be. ‘They don’t have to have their hair done, clothes matching, or even be clean to be loved or accepted. Strong is the new pretty.’

By Polly Rider

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