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Force of Nature

A Celebration of Girls and Women Raising Their Voices
© Kate T. Parker

Dedicated to all the girls and women who have ever questioned using their voices and the ones who have inspired me to find my own.  This book is for you.

On Sale: Mar 5, 2024
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
ISBN: 139781523505524

I first picked up a camera not long after my oldest daughter was born, eighteen years ago.  I felt as if something clicked in me (almost literally).  I loved making images and sharing stories of what it was like to be young, confident and free.  I found my calling and means of expression in celebrating kids, especially girls, authentically.  My first book, Strong is the New Pretty, started as a project to encourage my own two girls to know that they are enough just as they are and that being who they are is enough.  I’ve been photographing with that in mind ever since.  My hobby soon turned into a passion and then into a career.  Yes, it took me until I was in my thirties to find my “thing”, but I am so grateful.  This is my fifth book that celebrates the voices and stories of my subjects alongside images of them being themselves. I love helping to amplify their stories, told in their own words. It’s the best part of what I do, and it is how I use my voice.

As a woman and mother to two girls, I have seen how the world tries to fit us into categories with low expectations. I grew up hearing that girls are “made of sugar and spice and everything nice”.  I grew up in a world that suggested girls and women be complacent and agreeable.  “Don’t be too loud or make a spectacle of yourself, please,” society seems to say.  I did not want this for myself of my girls.  In fact, I wanted the opposite – I wanted to hears girls’ and women’s voices shouting from the rooftops!  I didn’t want my daughters (or any other girls for that matter) to think they needed to stifle their thoughts, opinions or expressions to be accepted.

The power of the female voice inspired this book.  After photographing, interviewing and showcasing thousands of people over my career, I saw firsthand how once voice can effect change.  Our girls have the power to change their world and the world.  The just need to fully realize it.

And yet, the phrase, “If you can’t see, you can’t be it”, lingers in my mind.  Representation matters.  I want anyone reading this book to be inspired by the courage and strength of the girls and women featured in these pages and know that you, too, can advocate for yourself and others. These are just some of the girls and women who are speaking up, speaking out and making changes for themselves and the world around them. My hope is that you recognize yourself in their words and are able to acknowledge your own power and agency to create change.

Why celebrate girls’ and women’s voices specifically?  Dissenters may argue that we are all humans and should celebrate all voices.  Of course we are and we should, but context is everything, and this is about equity.  And when women’s voices are heard and considered, society as a whole improves.  United Nations research on panchayats (local councils) in India discovered that the number of drinking water  projects in areas with women-led councils was 62 percent higher than in those with med-led councils.  In Norway, a direct causal relationship between the presence of women  in municipal councils and childcare coverage was found.  Women routinely demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines – even in the most combative environments – by championing issues such as the elimination of gender-based violence, parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender-equality laws, and electoral reform.

Our voices matter.  We, as women, need to remember that.  Force of Nature is about celebrating that expression of self.  It is not my place to define what female means.  But it is my supreme honor to document, share, and amplify what it means to those I photograph, and how it feels for them to express it.  In the moments we speak up for the first time; the moments we go against the crowd; the moments we find ourselves leading or otherwise commanding the room; the moments we put our true selves out there for criticism or praise, or shed light on injustice, or decide that the status quo isn’t working for us anymore.  The moments we decide enough is enough.

This is a book about inspiration. About taking that breath, full of uncertainty, and then, despite the doubt and discomfort, letting go and making ourselves heard, whether through writing, song, movement, images – or simply by speaking out loud.  The portraits in this collection are about the sometimes indescribable moments when girls and women make change, however small or large, in an instant, in their bodies and in the world.  I’d like to say that it’s courage that is needed to become a force of nature.  But truly, it’s power and freedom – and when that combination and balance is achieved, we roar.  We can be stronger than ever imagined.  We can be more than just a force to be considered; we can be one to be reckoned with.   We are a force of nature.

click to view the complete set of images in the archive

Institute Artist is redefining how stories are produced and told. Representing auteur-driven storytellers, we bring together talent across commercials, photography, fine art, and film. Founded by Matt Shonfeld and Frank Evers. Institute Artists multi-platform production expertise, and established global relationships in entertainment, fine art, and journalism make for unmatched reach and cross-pollination of creative work. Institute Artist has been a leading advocate of the power of underrepresented talent and is fully committed to bringing these authentic voices to our clients by helping them tell compelling and entertaining stories that better connect with their audiences.