CNN Parents

Showing girls that 'Strong is the New Pretty'

Story highlights

  • Kate Parker is the photographer and mother behind "Strong is the New Pretty"
  • The photo series shows her messy, wild daughters as they are, Parker said

(CNN)The night before her daughter's first triathlon, Kate Parker could tell the child was nervous.

Ella and her younger sister, Alice, are athletic, loud, curious, wild-haired kids. They grew up watching their mother compete in races and Ella had asked to sign up for her own. Still, as they laid out everything she'd need the next day, Parker, a photographer, could tell she was afraid.
"Why don't we get a picture?" Parker asked Ella, now 9. "Show me your strongest face, show me your bravest face, even if you don't feel that way right now."
    As she pulled the image up on her screen, she got chills from her daughter's direct stare. She looked, Parker said, like "a little badass."
    "You're going to be totally fine," Parker showed her. "Look at how tough you are."
    The next day, Ella participated in her race, and loved it. Looking back, "I wanted her to remember that she was scared and she went through with it, sort of as a memento of her conquering a fear, " said Parker, who lives near Atlanta. "As a mom, I really wanted to get a good picture of it, too."
    The photo is one of Parker's favorites from her series, "Strong is the New Pretty." It covers the last two years, but evolved from Parker's early days behind a camera, when she shot daily images of her girls to expand her knowledge of lighting and composition.
    It seemed that most images of little girls showcased perfectly placed hair bows, forced smiles and Photoshop-smooth skin. Hers didn't.
    "I didn't want to shoot pictures like that. I didn't want girls to think they had to look like that," said Parker, whose daughters are now 6 and 9. "Whoever they were, however they were, wa