From the outset, the premise captivates. Where once women might have been judged by the turn of an ankle or the shape of a cheek, we live in time when what is attractive can have a deeper meaning. And while there are those who would argue that we still have a long way to go to full equality, you can not read and look through Strong is the New Pretty (Workman) without getting this message and feeling it to your bones. Do we still have a way to go? Sure. But in some very real ways, we are here.
Strong is the New Pretty is the heart project of photographer Kate T. Parker who, as professional photographer who is also the mom of two girls, found herself photographing her daughters and their friends at sporting events and other places where they would be having fun:
The more I shot, the more I began to notice the strongest images, the ones that resonated most with me, were the ones in which the girls were being 100 percent themselves. When they were being messy and funny and stubborn and joyful and in your face, I kept shooting. I didn’t ask them to smile or go put on a pretty dress.I wanted to capture these girls as they were, and how they were was amazing.
From there, and with a significant body of work emerging, it was not a large step to pushing the material into a book. After all, Parker knew she had a message it was important to share.
I kept at it with more intention. I wanted to show my girls that beauty isn’t about being a certain size, or having your hair done (or even brushed, in their cases), or wearing a fancy outfit. I wanted to combat the messages the media sense to women every day. I wanted my girls to know that being themselves is beautiful, and that being beautiful is about being strong.
In Strong is the New Pretty, Parker has done it beautifully. This is good work, wonderful images. Her work is very solid. Very strong. And you look into these engaged young faces and your heart moves. There’s just no way it can not.
More than 175 photos — both color and black and white — along with a quote from each of her young subjects, create a strong message of strength, resilience and joy. ◊
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.