MOULTON, Ala. -- When you think of little girls, you normally think pink or princess everything, but one local photographer is trying to change that.
You may or may not have seen the photos already; they have been shared over 180,000 around the world.
A small-town photographer, Heather Mitchell, went big-time overnight when her photos of girls wearing princess dresses and athletic gear went viral.
The photos were simply captioned, "Because you can do it all."
I did meet the photographer and we did talk about her viral photos. But while I was there, she was holding another special photo shoot session with an even more important message than her viral one.
The photos were inspired by a conversation Mitchell had at her 8-year-old daughter's softball practice.
"I said 'I just hope that Paislee learns to love the game this year. This is her first year, I feel like she’s athletic,'" Mitchell said.
It was another mother's response that left her feeling unsettled. "Ahhh, she’s not athletic, she’s a girly girl!"
That night, Mitchell held on to that comment, and then it clicked. "Why does she have to choose? Why can’t she be both?" Mitchell said.
The next day, she had an impromptu photo shoot with her daughter. When people saw those pictures, they wanted more. Mitchell posted the collection of photos on her HMP Couture Imagery Facebook page, and they went viral.
"I was just overwhelmed," Mitchell said. "That we have this voice to say ‘You, little girl, can do it. Nobody can tell you, you can’t do it.'"
Now, with a platform to stand on, Mitchell wanted to share more.
"We had a lot of feedback on our first post that we didn’t have diversity," she said. "But it was paid sessions, it wasn’t models that we chose. So today, we get to choose.”
In a follow-up photo shoot, girls of all kinds came together to show everyone they were just as tough as they wanted to be. Mitchell photographed several of her daughter's friends, one being adopted out of the foster system, one who was born with a partial arm, and one who is fighting cancer.
All girls from Lawrence County. All beautiful. And all athletes.
Mitchell never expected her photos to go viral, but she's glad she can share this message with whoever needs to hear it.
"Whatever life has thrown at you -- if you dream it and believe it, there's no limits," she said.