The Isis Project photo of a little girl dressed up as Michelle ObamaThe Isis Project/Darkroomfoto


Two mums are on a mission to teach young girls girls that Disney princesses and pop stars aren't the only heroines they can look up to.

Concern about the lack of positive female role models for their two-year-old daughters inspired photographer Kat Carey and marketing professional Cassandra Yardeni to launch their photography initiative: The Isis Project: Empowering Girls Through The Celebration of Extraordinary Women.

"When I found out I was having a girl, I was so excited but I was also kind of scared," Kat told Parentdish. "Because I know what it's like growing up as a woman in modern society, with the constant feeling that if you're not pretty or slim then you're just not good enough.
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After I had my daughter I realised just how important it is for me to show her that there are amazing women out there who are highly regarded for their personalities, or their brains, or because they are brave - not just because they're pretty.

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"Not that there's anything wrong with being pretty, but women and girls deserve to feel good about themselves for other reasons too, and they should be rewarded for doing things other than showing skin or because they happen to be what society says is beautiful."

Kat spoke to Cassandra about her worries and they both agreed they wanted to do something to inspire their daughters.

But they weren't sure where to begin, until they came across photographer Jaime Moore's Not Just A Girl series, which featured Moore's young daughter dressed as real-life heroines, such as Amelia Earhart and Coco Chanel.

"We came across the project on Facebook," says Kat. "And Cassie said to me, 'You're a photographer, we should take this a step further and invite the whole city to get involved. So we started the Isis Project in October and it just progressed from there and got bigger and bigger."

Based in Texas, US, The Isis Project hosts a photo session once a month, with up to 12 girls photographed in 20 minute long sessions.

It is up to parents and their daughters to decide who they will dress up as and provide the costume and props to recreate their 'inspiration photo'.

Kat has been moved by the response the project has received, and the effort families have put into creating a meaningful photo of their child.

"I get almost emotional about how supported this project has been," says Kat. "The parents come in with costumes and stories that just blow me away.

"But the ones that really hit home are those that have extra meaning to them, for instance when the heroine has personally helped pull somebody out of a funk.

"There was one woman who dressed her daughter as the poet Maya Angelou. She told me that the photo was very important to her because she had been in an abusive marriage and Maya Angelou's poetry had helped her gain the strength to leave that situation.

"It's really great to see the photos open up a conversation between parents and their children about inspiring women, and it's also been learning experience for me, as people have come in with photos of inspiring women that I'd never heard of before.

"One mum dressed her daughter up as one of her ancestors Judith B. Jones, who was a publisher who rescued the diary of Anne Frank form the reject pile and got it printed."

Kat's own daughter Sophia has posed as her personal heroine, photographer Annie Leibovitz.

"It's taken me a long time to get a shot of Sophia, as like her mum she's happier behind the camera," says Kat.

"She's only two years old but she's already picking up cameras and she likes to follow me around when I take pictures, so I wanted to share with her my personal heroine Annie Leibovitz. Now I can show her the photo and tell her that this is someone who is important to mummy."

Cassandra's daughter Lily is also a little camera shy and is yet to pose, but when she's ready Cassandra plans to dress her up as actress Lucille Ball.

"Lucille Ball was a trail blazer in her field as a female comedian," says Kat. "Lily's got beautiful curly hair and I think she'd be perfect for it, so we're just starting to get the costume together and find time for another shoot."

The pair hope that the pictures and the stories behind them will help inspire a generation of girls to make a wider variety of female names well-known in playgrounds.

"Not enough girls know who these women are," says Kat. "Playgrounds are saturated with talk of popstars and princesses and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's important little girls know that being smart isn't less important than being beautiful.

"I would really like these women to become household names and for these girls to grow up and say to their friends, 'I dressed up as Ada Lovelace. Do you know who Ada Lovelace is?'"

For more pictures click through the gallery below and visit The Isis Project website.