Why This Picture of My Daughter Went Viral

I am both a professional photographer and a mother so, as you can imagine, I take pictures of my two girls all. the. time. But in the tens of thousands of images I’ve taken, one stands out. Maybe you’ve even seen it.

Around ten years ago, my youngest, Alice, was five. It was pouring rain, and she was dancing and playing, sopping wet and loving every second of it. I snapped a picture as she extended her arms outward, screaming with joy at the top of her lungs. As soon as the shutter clicked, I knew it would be a powerful shot.

My photo of my daughter went viral on social media

It was a simple moment—just a girl playing in a downpour—but there was something about it. I loved the space she was taking up, and the power her tiny body exuded. I posted the picture on my Facebook page — of course! — and went on with my life.

(Photo credit: Kate Parker)

A few weeks later, my girl went viral. Someone had meme’d the photo of Alice, adding the words “Remember her? She’s still there…inside you…waiting. Let’s go get her.” I checked the activity on the account that posted it and the image had already been shared over forty thousand times in just one week.

At first, I felt some motherly fear: is this okay? Is it safe? There was also a tinge of indignation that someone stole my work and didn’t give proper credit. Not cool, but also not something I could change. With tens of thousands of views, the image was out in the world in a way that I hadn’t imagined or sanctioned. It was a weird feeling, but I have come to terms with it.

The image is still circulating

A decade later, even as my little five-year-old is now in high school, the image is still circulating; it’s taken on a life of its own. It’s been viewed by millions, and the meme is always evolving. The exact words change, but the celebration of joy and inner fortitude, and a call for them to reemerge, remain the same.

Where has our fierce spirit gone? Remember that girl who used to scream in the rain? The one who didn’t care what others thought? Who was loud and in your face? Who took up space and stood her ground? She is still inside of you. Go get her.

The spontaneous image of my daughter moved people

It’s clear this spontaneous photo of my daughter made people feel something deeply. I think it reminded them of who they once were—an untamed, more fearless version of themselves—and it made them recognize her, still there inside of them. As a mother, feminist, and woman who at times needs to remind herself to speak up or stop obsessing about wrinkles or weight, I loved the picture then and love it now, even as it has taken up a wider meaning for others far beyond my family.

I have a giant print of the image hanging in my kitchen, cheering me on as I go about my day. Every time I see it, fierce little Alice makes me smile. She was, and remains, a force of nature. But the picture also makes me think. Why do our bold, confident selves so often wither inside of us as we get older? Do we harm girls when we expect them to be cute and agreeable?

Girls are taught to be less loud, less big, less messy

At age five, many children have the urge to dance in the rain and scream and laugh. But then girls are taught—in subtle and insidious ways—that we need to be less: less loud, less big, less messy. We are asked to hide away our natural enthusiasm in order to present something more “ladylike.” What this picture reminds me is that anyone who has ever said women should be seen and not heard, whether it be at age 5, 55, or 95, could not be more wrong.

We spend so much time making ourselves smaller and quieter for others; I am forever thankful that this image reminds us to stand our ground, take our space, and let the world hear our voices.

More Great Reading:

‘Barbie’-Inspired Advice to My College-Bound Daughter

About Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a mother, wife, Ironman, New York Times bestselling author, and professional photographer who photographs both personal projects and commercial work for her clients. Her fifth book, Force of Nature: A Celebration of Girls and Women Using Their Voices, was inspired by this viral image of her youngest daughter.

Her first book Strong is the New Pretty, adapted from her wildly successful photography series, is a national bestseller and has garnered outstanding media attention and support from everyone from the Spice Girls and David Beckham, to Drew Barrymore, Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman, and Emma Watson. It also inspired Kate to launch a philanthropic arm of SITNP, partnering with organizations such as Girls on the Run, Girl Up, The Arthur Blank Family Foundation, Glam4Good, Disney and The Bully Project by investing in girls’ health and education.

You can find her on Instagram or here.

Read more posts by Kate

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