Photographer: ‘Wild girls should be allowed to be wild’


Story highlights

Kate T. Parker was inspired by the strength she saw in her pictures of her daughters

Girls from across the US showed their strength through sports, dance and other talents

Some girls pictured fought cancer or against bullies in the lunchroom

CNN —  

Kate T. Parker’s daughters like to bike, swim and get muddy. Parker wanted them to know that their love of what they do and their strength makes them beautiful.

Traveling the country, she discovered even more versions of strength: girls fighting cancer and standing up to bullies in the lunchroom; female football players and ballet dancers whose powers could rival a superhero’s.

“Strong, to me, is facing something that scares you and doing it anyway. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It is being afraid and doing it anyway,” Parker said.

Kate T. Parker was inspired by the strength she saw in her own children.
Courtesy Kate T. Parker/Workman Publishing
Kate T. Parker was inspired by the strength she saw in her own children.

All those strong girls fiercely going for whatever they want, gender stereotypes be damned, are part of “Strong is the New Pretty,” Parker’s first book, releasing March 7.

CNN asked Parker about her new project. Her answers have been edited for space.

CNN: Why did you start posting images to social media?

Kate T. Parker: I was photographing my daughters, Ella (now 11) and Alice (now 8), every day. I noticed that the images that were strongest and most meaningful to me were the ones where the girls were being themselves, whatever that was at the moment: dirty, feisty, silly, sassy, angry, funny, loud and louder. They didn’t need to pose a certain way or smile for the camera or brush their hair to be beautiful.

I wanted my girls to know that those images that captured their true personalities showed their beauty. The images turned into a tool I could use to combat the messages the media often sends to girls and women: that beauty is a particular hairstyle, size or outfit.  

Wild girls should be allowed to be wild. Introspective girls should be allowed to be quiet. Funny girls should be allowed to be funny. Girls who are all these things should be all these things and should be allowed to find out who and what they are without boundaries.

Giving girls the space and time and support to find out just who they are, what they like and, ultimately, what they love is a key job as a parent or mentor.

CNN: What did you learn from photographing girls all over the country?

Parker: As the project grew, I learned that strength doesn’t always come in one package, and it doesn’t always manifest itself the way it does in my girls.

Strength isn’t always loud and feisty. Strength can be in the face of a musician creating music because it is inside of her. Strength can be changing tables in the lunchroom because your “fri