Atlanta-based photographer Kate T. Parker created a uniquely beautiful and empowering project in her photography book, "Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves."
Parker's stunning photographs of girls ages 4 to 19 from around the U.S. aren't the typical posed-with-smiling-faces pictures. Instead, Parker smashes female stereotypes with images that capture girls being messy, spirited, goofy and fierce. Though many girls enjoy frills and lace, the majority of these photographs show young girls in the midst of being tough, whether they're playing a sport, jumping in the sprinklers or overcoming a personal battle. The individual personalities captivate readers with their spunk and vitality.
Divided into eight chapters, Parker begins each section with an expanded definition of the word strong — confidence, wildness, resilience, creativity, determination, kindness, fearlessness, joyfulness and independence — followed by photographs of girls with a short, powerful quote from the showcased girl. The first page of each chapter also features a quote from a well-known strong female such as Olympian Gabby Douglas, journalist Katie Couric and actress Debby Ryan.
The girls featured are diverse in race and abilities. Some have overcome or are working though physical challenges such as diabetes, broken bones, cancer or ailments that have caused them to use wheelchairs or leg braces. The inner and outer strength of each girl explodes from the vivid photographs and inspires readers with courage and fortitude.
The message is clear: Whether girls are swimmers, soccer players, dancers, musicians, intellects, artists, pilots or comforting friends, they are fierce and strong. Parker's "Strong Is the New Pretty" encourages mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts and friends to just be themselves no matter what their passion is, because that's where their beauty lies.
Parker proclaims that beauty isn't about perfect hair or designer outfits on the perfect body like the message media often sends. She writes in the book, "I wanted my girls to know that being themselves is beautiful, and that being beautiful is about being strong."
"Strong Is the New Pretty" has no sexual content or violence, but there is an instance or two of mild swearing.