March 29, 2017

Atlanta Photographer Kate Parker's Book Empowers Young Girls

Kiddie Dope

When you have kids, one of the hardest parts of raising them is shielding them from stereotypes that can end up hindering them in the long term. For example, there’s pressure for the boys to be good at throwing the football while the girls are playing with the Easy-Bake Oven.
In reality, it could very well be that the little boy wants to bake cupcakes, and the girls want to start their own flag football team. (As the mother of a daughter, I can attest to being asked multiple times why girls aren’t on football teams.)

As a result, it helps to have examples of ways to buck the trends and show our kids that they might not grow up to be the president of the United States—OK, maybe now, truly, anyone can do it—but they can embrace aspects of their personalities that might not conform to a “standard.” This is the thought behind a new book, Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves, by Atlanta photographer Kate Parker.

Parker will visit Athens for a book signing at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Mar. 31 at Avid Bookshop, 493 Prince Ave. She says the book is a way for girls to celebrate just being girls—no matter how they’re expressing themselves.

“I’d shoot my girls every day, and I noticed the images of the girls that were the strongest were the ones of them being themselves—dirty, sassy and emotional,” she says. “They weren’t smiling for the camera, and their hair wasn’t brushed. I wanted my girls to know that who they were was beautiful. I wanted my girls to know that was their power and that was their beauty.”

The result is a rich collection of photographs and quotes broken into sections covering various topics, such as “kindness,” “confidence” and “wildness.”

The book also has a connection to Athens through portraits of two local girls featured in the book—they are part of Strong Girls, an Athens program for preteen girls that helps teach them self-worth, to embrace their uniqueness and to live a healthy life. Strong Girls was founded by Rachel Greb and Kim Turner, and Parker says she connected with the group after Turner stumbled onto her project one night and sent her a message on social media.

For Turner, photographing the girls made sense because the book seemed to be an extension of the values the program was teaching. Parker says the service aspect of Strong Girls—the group organizes several community service projects throughout the year—was a strength she had not yet captured for the book. “I didn’t have girls that [give] back and volunteer, so it was a perfect way to align and be able to highlight that kind of strength—the strength to give back,” she says.

In retrospect, Parker adds that the book helped change her perspective of strength, too. As a college-level soccer player, she assumed only athletes prepared for a big game or season in their own unique way. But what she’s learned is that no matter what the girls in the book are doing, if they’re passionate about it, it’s that same drive and commitment that athletes feel. It’s just translated to a different outlet.

“I felt so lucky to get to capture these girls doing what they love to do, doing what they are the most passionate about. I feel like I got these girls at their best. I was getting to celebrate that,” she says. “And my goal with the book was to try to have any girl who picked up the book be inspired by it or recognize herself in that girl.”

Bug Out

It wouldn’t be spring with bugs, which means it’s also a great time to bring the kids to the annual Insectival on Friday, Apr. 7. The event takes place from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. on the lawn by the Miller Plant Sciences Building on the UGA campus (look for the iron corn fence on Carlton Street).

While my only beef with this event is that it’s not ideally timed for working parents (maybe noon–5 p.m. so we could knock off a little early, grab the kids and play before dinner? Hint hint?), this is always a fun, interactive event that features bug-themed games, food, crafts and patient college students with the UGA Bug Dawgs group who are happy to explain the coolness of bugs to our children. And there’s usually a hissing cockroach, which is always the life of the party.