Kate T. Parker talks with girls who are featured in her new photo book, “Strong Is the New Pretty,” at Atlanta Academy. Parker began her photo book after first photographing her daughters. Her book covers girls from the Atlanta area and around the country. DAVID BARNES / SPECIAL
Photo: David Barnes
Photo: David Barnes

Roswell photographer shows girls that ‘Strong Is the New Pretty’

Kate T. Parker doesn’t want her daughters to ever lose their awesomeness or their confidence.

She wants them to always know it’s OK to embrace who you are, whether you’re loud, or silly, defiant, love playing sports or arcade games or you’re fighting a disease like sickle cell anemia.

For the cover of Kate T. Parker’s new photo book “Strong Is the New Pretty,” the image is Parker’s “The Triathlete.” It appeared in a New York City gallery show hosted by Special K for its “Nourish Your Next” campaign.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Parker, a former collegiate soccer player, former CNN video producer and professional photographer, is author of a new book, “Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves” (Workman Publishing, $17.95).

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Parker’s 250-page book profiles nearly 200 girls, ranging in age from 4 to 18, who are redefining what pretty means. It goes beyond what you see in the mirror or how you dress.

Kate T. Parker photographs girls who are featured in her new photo book, “Strong Is the New Pretty,” at Atlanta Academy. Parker, who lives in Roswell, is a former collegiate soccer player, former CNN video producer and professional photographer. DAVID BARNES / SPECIAL
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Take her daughters, Ella, 11, and Alice, 8. They’re bold. They’re sassy. And at times, they’re like “dirty tomboys.”

“They are 100 percent themselves,” said Parker, who lives in Roswell. “You see a lot of girls go through puberty, and as they get older, they lose that sense of how awesome they are. They lose their sense of self-confidence. In puberty, more value is placed on what you look like rather than who you are. I wanted them to keep that as long as possible and to record it for them.”

Parker started taking photographs of her daughters six years ago. At the time, it was purely for herself. Playing outside? Click. Studying for a math test. Click. Jumping on the bed. Click.

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Her work soon made its way into an Atlanta gallery. It was part of an exhibit on mothers who were artists and incorporated their children into their work. She didn’t sell one print. Several of those images are now on display in her living room. Still, that exhibit became a springboard for other things.

Some of her photos were featured on blogs and on television shows.

She started getting emails from people asking where they could buy the book, but there wasn’t a book deal at the time.

Kate T. Parker photographs girls who are featured in her new photo book, “Strong Is the New Pretty,” at Atlanta Academy. Parker began photographing her daughters six years ago. At the time, it was purely for herself. DAVID BARNES / SPECIAL
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

She began thinking about how cool it would be to do a book and feature girls from around the nation who represent strength in a number of different ways.

How does Parker define strength? “To me, strength is being afraid of something and doing it anyway. Being courageous when you feel anything but is so powerful.”

The project when viral.

“I wanted girls to have someone they could relate to and be inspired by,” Parker said. She shot photos of girls all over the nation. The book is already in its second printing.

Kate T. Parker photographs Sadi Pennington, who is featured in her new photo book, “Strong Is the New Pretty.” DAVID BARNES / SPECIAL
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

She shot thousands upon thousands of images. The hardest part, she said, was deciding which ones to include in the book.

Parker is already thinking about her next project, which is to expand “Strong Is the New Pretty” to girls around the world.

She has heard from other young girls or their parents in France, Australia and Germany.

At its heart, she hopes the book provides a safe space for girls that what’s most important is for them to know who they are, as opposed to what they look like.

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