When Kate T. Parker, author of Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves, first became a professional photographer, she picked some of the cutest subjects she knew at the time: her two young daughters.
"When they were little I was still learning photography," she told POPSUGAR. "So it started with me just shooting them every single day. Then a few years later, I was getting ready for a gallery show in Atlanta and I had to pick the 20 strongest images from the thousands that I'd had taken. After I finished pulling them together I realized that they were the shots where my girls were really being themselves."
Once Kate took a good hard look at the 20 shots she'd picked, she realized something interesting: all of the frames depicted her kiddos looking less than proper.
"My girls were dirty and their hair wasn't brushed. They weren't smiling for the camera. They were digging in the mud or screaming at each other," she joked. "We live in Georgia and as a photographer, I didn't really see a ton of girls being portrayed that way. I saw little girls with bows in their hair and dresses on and they looked perfect."
"I didn't want them to think that they had to appear quiet and complacent to be celebrated, so that's really how I got started with the project."
And while Kate can't deny the other girls looked adorably sweet, she knew she wanted her photo project to be different for her daughters' sake. "I really didn't want my girls to think that they had to be like that. I didn't want them to think that they had to appear quiet and complacent to be celebrated, so that's really how I got started with the project."
And believe it or not, she didn't sell a single photo from her show. But that didn't stop her from moving forward with her idea, and soon enough, she got a book deal.
"I can't speak to what it's like to raise girls since I have three boys myself, but I can speak to what it's like to photograph them," she said. "I love capturing images of little girls when they are just being themselves. Sometimes that looks like all the sweet stereotypes that come to mind, but sometimes it's something totally different."
When it comes to documenting exactly what a day in the life of a girl is like, she stresses that no two are the same. "I have yet to photograph a girl who isn't so much more dynamic than that. Girls are brave, silly, creative, intelligent, and thoughtful. I am just as likely to find myself documenting them playing with dolls as I am to capture them wrestling with their siblings or playing backyard football."
Stephanie Mullowney agrees and explains that having a daughter with special needs has also shown her how problematic stereotypes can be. "Raising a daughter with special needs is a lot like raising any typical child, but it's her extra chromosome God gave her that makes her extraordinary," she said. "It's her differences that makes her so beautiful. She has likes and dislikes as any other child would. She loves music, mud, jewelry, and having her picture taken. She is loving with a heart that doesn't judge others and she also has a sassy side!"
Scroll through to see some of our favorite shots of girls just doing their thing.