Kinsey Sullivan
April 06, 2015 8:42 am

Sometimes a photographer captures a feeling so lovingly and so perfectly, that it’s impossible to look away. Atlanta-based photographer Kate Parker’s photographs of her daughters’ childhoods have just that quality.

Her series, “Strong is the New Pretty,” is a gorgeous exploration of her two young daughters’ adventures and childhood innocence, as well as their femininity. The photographs capture her daughters Ella and Alice, along with their friends — and the best part about the pix is these are not portraits of girls done up and sitting still. These are photographs of girls out in the world, just being girls. The series is so infused with a mother’s love and respect for childhood that you can’t help but fall for it. If you’re a daughter, these photos might just bring you to tears.

According to CNN the series started with this image of Ella taken on the night before her first triathlon:

Kate told her daughter that in order to fight the nerves they would take a photo. As Kate said to CNN, she asked Ella to, “Show me your strongest face, show me your bravest face, even if you don’t feel that way right now.” She continued, “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.”

The photographs just continued.

“I wanted to celebrate these girls as they are, not how females are expected to be,” Kate said of the series in a recent interview with HelloGiggles. “I wanted to celebrate them, just as they are, and show them that is enough. Being pretty or perfect is not important. Being who they are is.”

As a professional photographer, the development of these intimate photographs of her children into a full-fledged photo essay happened organically. And the series is now taking on life well beyond the power of a family album.

“There’s a lot of pressure for girls (and women) to look a certain way, act in certain manner, and I wanted to let my daughters know that who they naturally are is enough,” Kate added.

It is clear that Kate loves her daughters for being challenging, smart, daring, and bold — not in spite of those qualities. She chose to share those more unexpected aspects of their personalities, instead of solely focusing on their youth, their looks, their innocence. There is nothing cliche here, it is all very real.   

If these photographs remind you of another Southern mother’s black-and-white photographs of her children, you’re not alone. Sally Mann’s celebrated but controversial series, “Immediate Family,” also involved intimate photographs of her children.

Mann’s work is an inspiration to Kate — though let’s be clear, Kate’s work is not derivative at all. When asked whether Mann’s work is an inspiration, Kate is clear: While Mann is an inspiration, and she appreciates the comparison, she’s pursuing her own vision.

“I just try to focus on my own work, my own experience and my own interpretation of it,” Kate said. “I think that is every photographer’s/artist’s job and ultimately what makes their work unique . . . recognizing what makes them special, what unique point of view they have and how they can showcase that individual slice of their world to the rest of the world.  It is so hard to find your voice, but watch out when you do.”

So what do her girls think of the series?

“They are pretty ambivalent about it,” Kate said. “They don’t care either way if they are on a website, magazine cover as long as they haven’t lost dessert that night or iPad privileges . . . I love that they don’t really care or put any stock into the images, I just hope it serves as a great reminder one day of their childhood and the amazing and wonderful girls they are.” We have a feeling that when Ella and Alice get a little older they are absolutely going to love these.

We adore Kate Parker’s amazing work, and are so excited to see the reach of her beautiful images!

Follow her on Twitter @ktparkerphoto, Instagram @katetparkerphotography, and Facebook to keep up with her!

[All images courtesy of the aritst]

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