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'There is no box': Photographer captures girls as athletes and princesses

"Our daughters do not have to choose."
/ Source: TODAY

While chatting with the other moms at her daughter's softball practice, Heather Mitchell was hit with the inspiration to create a photo series that shows young girls dressed simultaneously as athletes and princesses.

"One of the moms told me (my daughter) was not athletic — that she was a girly girl," Mitchell told TODAY Parents. "I couldn't sleep that night. All I could think was, 'Why does she have to choose?'"

After another mom told her that her daughter, Paislee, was "not athletic" and was "a girly girl," Heather Mitchell was inspired to create a series of photos that shows young girls being both things.HMP Couture Imagery/Heather Miller

Mitchell, an Alabama portrait photographer, said that during her school days, she "played every sport offered and wore lipstick to every game."

"Our daughters do not have to choose," said Mitchell. "My parents taught me that I could be anything I wanted growing up. I didn't realize until I was much older that everyone is not that blessed."

Mitchell says after posting the photos of her daughter on Facebook, other members of her community asked for similar shoots.HMP Couture Imagery/Heather Miller
Mitchell's stunning images have gone viral, something she hopes will send a powerful message to young girls.HMP Couture Imagery/Heather Miller

After her sleepless night, Mitchell took her daughter, Paislee, into her photography studio and took a few photos of the 8-year-old dressed in princess dresses and tiaras while posing with softball gear. After posting the images to her personal Facebook account, she received requests to photograph more girls with the same theme.

Mitchell photographed one child in a princess dress with a basketball.HMP Couture Imagery/Heather Miller

The empowering photo sessions sold out, and the high demand has caused Mitchell, who also has a 15-year-old daughter named Ivy, to plan for additional shoots.

Mitchell's post to her photography Facebook page has gone viral, with more than 200,000 shares of her photos and a simple message: "Because you can do it all."

Mitchell says her photos are about teaching girls they do not have to choose between playing sports and being feminine.HMP Couture Imagery/Heather Miller
Due to high demand for her creative photo sessions, Mitchell will offer more to clients in the coming weeks.HMP Couture Imagery/Heather Miller

Mitchell said she hopes the images send a clear message to young girls everywhere.

"I hope every little girl that sees this series can see that there is no box," she said. "Whatever their dreams are, they can achieve them."

This story originally ran on on April 16, 2019.