Are you Mom to a teenage daughter?
Are you looking for connection, encouragement, and tips on how to navigate these crazy teen girl years?
Then grab your camera and your coffee, and join us!
I think it’s important for me to preface this blog post with the acknowledgement that this is an opinion post. The views in this post might not be shared by all, and I apologize if my words offend or displease anyone. That is not my intent.
That said, I believe that the ideas discussed in this post are vital to our teenage daughters. I write this for those girls.
I’ve been a photographer for over a decade now, and I’ve specialized in working with high school seniors for almost all of that time. In working to improve my craft, I have spent countless hours pouring over high school senior portraits, particularly the “custom senior portraits” that so many photographers offer these days.
Times sure have changed since I was a high school senior.
I am continually blown away by some of the amazing talent in the portrait world. There are truly some amazing portrait photographers out there, and the high school senior genre is no exception.
But I’m also blown away by how many photographers are promoting the sultry, “cover girl” look. Mature poses, seductive expressions, and not a smile to be found. It seems every photographer out there is promoting the idea that a successful senior portrait session is one where our teen girls are made to look like supermodels, long gone from her high school days.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in capturing the beauty of every teen I photograph. But I struggle BIG TIME with the “cover girl”, “supermodel”, pouty faced portraits. It actually fills me with some kind of emotion that’s part unease and part fury. The more I see it, the more I lean towards fury.
I don’t fault photographers for this. Well, at least not completely. The way I see it, photographers simply do not have time to invest in getting to know each teen in a meaningful way. Because of this, many of us photographers lack what it takes to create authentic and special portraits that really capture the essence of the teen. Instead, we have to go with a more generic style, a style we can recreate over and over, albeit with a change here and a change there to make each subject “feel unique”.
And when pushed to it, the photographer will often choose what’s “hot” and current in today’s pop culture. Thus, the sexy, sultry, supermodel look.
So what’s the big deal? If this is such a hot trend, wouldn’t it be smart to go with it, and push that kind of portrait style to every teen out there? Isn’t that what they want anyway?
I’m not so sure it is.
Consider the typical teen girl. Or consider YOUR teen girl. While she’s probably the most beautiful creature you’ve ever seen, she probably doesn’t feel like that most days. She is most likely looking at herself and finding more “flaws” than “flattery”. She’s struggling with discovering who she is, with learning what makes her truly beautiful- because while each girl truly is beautiful, it takes time for each one to discover it for herself.
So then how can we consider putting them in front of a camera, where a photographer will push the “supermodel” ideal, emphasizing all the outer beauty, photoshopping her to fit a certain image, and think that that won’t do a number on her self esteem?
Again, I don’t fault the photographer. It’s a photographer’s job to make her subject shine, to make her look flawless and fabulous.
Or is it?
It goes back to that time issue. I truly believe it takes time to get to know each teen- not just in a pre-session consult, not just in a “what’s your favorite color, and who is your bestie, and why?” kind of way. I mean in a deep and meaningful way. In a way that lets her know that you SEE her, you KNOW her, that she can really be herself in front of the camera, because she really trusts the person behind the camera.
I don’t know if it’s possible for me to do that on such a meaningful level with all the teen girls out there who so desperately need this.
But you can.
Yes, I said you. Mom.
Think about it. There’s only one girl who I can truly photograph this way, on such a deep and meaningful level. There’s only one person who can really photograph your daughter in such a deep and meaningful way. Mother and daughter. Photographer and subject.
Yeah, I know, I know. You don’t know how to use your camera. Your phone doesn’t cut it. Your daughter wants no part of you or your camera right now. You can’t even get your daughter to open up to you, let alone sit for you.
I know these things. Why do you think I’m proposing such a crazy idea?
What if your camera became your secret weapon instead of the eye sore collecting dust at the bottom of your closet?
What if you actually knew how to use it well enough that you could skip the expensive photographer who really knows nothing about your daughter anyway?
What if you could photograph her yourself in a way that celebrates her real beauty instead of pigeon holing her into society’s warped idea of beauty?
What if your camera actually helped you connect with her?
Crazy? Or maybe brilliant.
This is the way I’m going to become that photographer for all the teen girls out there. I’m going to do it by teaching all the moms out there how to shoot like me.
I’m going to give control to you moms, so that maybe we can put this whole “super hot, supermodel” image to rest already. Our girls deserve so much more than that.
Have you ever had those moments where you think, “No way is this a coincidence!”?
Ever find yourself talking to someone and just know that you were meant to meet this person?
That’s how I felt a few weeks back when I found myself on the phone, talking with Stephanie LaBonte. A friend of mine had referred me to a website in order to connect with someone she knew had a similar business mission to mine. Five minutes into that search, I found Stephanie’s website and mission, and was so excited about our common values that I immediately reached out. Ten minutes later, we were chatting it up on the phone, giddy over the similarities in our vision, discussing ways that we could share each other’s ideas with our own tribes.
Which brings me here, with you, today. As most of you are moms to daughters, it excites me so much to share Stephanie with you. Stephanie is the creator and founder of Empowered Girls Rise, an organization that strives to nurture self-respect, confidence, and purpose in girls from middle school through college. Seriously, how awesome is that!
Why don’t I let her tell you a little bit about herself and her amazing business herself.
As a high school teacher in an urban school district, I started to notice that with social media there was an upward trend of girls bullying, cyber bullying and fighting. I really wanted to do something about this. I knew the reason why girls were increasingly being mean to one another, it was because they had low confidence, self-worth, and had not found purpose in their lives. So I made it my mission to find a solution for these girls. What I did was start to bring strong, successful and highly motivated women into my classroom to talk to the girls. I figured if it came from outside of me and our world of the classroom the girls would listen more. It started with just one woman and 30 girls in my classroom 5 years ago and blossomed to now over 200 girls per rally plus hands on workshops, incredible keynote speakers, panel discussion, breakout sessions and networking power hour.
Our mission is to nurture self-respect, confidence and purpose in girls ages 11-25 through education, personal development, mentorship and community. I want to help girls globally to find their purpose and connect them with community members that will help them develop and thrive. We do this through Girls Movement Rallies (1 day events- conference style), District Partnerships (1 year programs working very closely with a school), Girl Leadership Series (online).
I decided to focus specifically on these three age groups because I had taught in a middle school and currently teach in a high school. I have college aged girls too because I feel that there are so many real-world skills that they need to know before getting a job. Some are struggling because they still don’t know what they want to be and these girls rallies and connections will help them come out of themselves and into their power. There is one instance that really made me do this- it was my very first year of coaching cheerleading in high school (I had coached middle school prior) and the team was a mess- they were so mean to each other. There was a huge verbal fight with some of the girls and they quit. It was right before a major competition. On the bus ride to the competition, the girls told me the girls who quit were bashing them on Twitter, saying they were going to cause trouble for them at the competition. I was so upset that these girls were tearing each other down and were going to come to a big competition to just bully them? It was in that moment that I knew it had to stop- girls needed to spend their time raising each other up- not tearing each other down.
I can’t forget my babies, though! I do this so that my own daughters can grow up in a kinder world where opportunities for girls are endless!
My favorite part is bringing all of the women together who speak and present at these rallies and hearing the testimonials from the girls. Girls normally can’t believe that these women want to come and talk to them. They will often tell me after, “She is so amazing, I can’t believe that she wanted to even come here and talk to me”. This is the magic because I will often tell them, “Of course they wanted to talk to you, don’t you know how special you are?” I can also give them their contact information and they can connect with the woman that they were drawn to. The greatest struggle is finding funding for the events. Sometimes schools cannot afford this LIFE CHANGING program for girls and that should not be so- I always try to help them get funding for these events if I can and am always looking for sponsors. Sponsors help make the magic happen.
Yes, if they are facing bullying at school Moms should:
I would also advise not to confront the bully themselves since it is not their job to worry about that- if it continues however, that is when you must advocate for your daughter. All kids deserve to feel safe in school and it is the job of the staff to make it so.
I have a Girls Movement Rally on April 26th with extra special keynote Adriana Carrig of The Little Words Project! I also have a confident, savvy girls workshop coming up on May 5th. Girl Leadership Virtual Series will be reopening June 1st for enrollment- this is an online class for girls teaching them to find their purpose. Girls get a certificate at the end as an Empowered Girls Rise Leader and have to complete a project doing something for the community (example, planting a garden, filling in for the school janitor, kindness rocks, volunteering etc.)
They can find me on my website www.empoweredgirlsrise.com
Facebook Empowered Girls Rise
And there you have it! How wonderful is this program? How awesome is this lady! I’m so excited to have connected with her, as she has such a heart for teen and tween girls. She’s passionate about serving young girls, and I’m passionate about serving their moms. Coincidence? I think not!
I would love to leave you today with two treats!
First, Stephanie has a wonderful resource for you. She has created a FREE printable that you can download here, "Five Tips To Have a Conversation With Your Daughter About Staying Safe Online".
And I would love to treat you as well!
If you haven't joined us already, I've created a Facebook Group called LOVE THROUGH THE LENS, where moms of teen girls come together to support and encourage each other as we raise strong girls. Please come join us! It's such a wonderful community!
Thank you again, Stephanie. I look forward to seeing what’s coming next for you, and for all the girls you help empower!
***Special credit to Marisa Balletti- Lavoie of Sassy Mouth Photo who took the beautiful photos of Stephanie shown here.***