The Black Heroines Project, by Brooklyn photographer Marc Bushelle and his wife Janine Harper, stars their 5-year-old daughter Lily as trailblazing African-American women, and it’s fabulous!
Inspired by Jaime Moore’s Not Just A Girl photo series, Marc and Janine wanted to create something special for their daughter that would “fortify her against any discrimination in her future and to really give her a strong sense of self-worth,” Marc explains in a video about the project.
“When people talk about black history, there is a list of names they rattle off. But we wanted to cover women that were not normally at the tip of people’s tongues.”
In looking for women to portray, Marc says, “When people talk about black history, there is a list of names they rattle off. But we wanted to cover women that were not normally at the tip of people’s tongues.” Or as we like to say… women you should know.
So in making their choices, the family selects a woman from history, and then researches photos to recreate. After the image is selected, dad, mom and Lily research the woman, watch films, listen to music, and find out as much about her accomplishments as they can. Lily also gets involved in the creative process, helping with props and costuming.
So far they have dressed and photographed Lily as Mae Jemison, Admiral Michelle Howard, Nina Simone, Queen Latifah, Misty Copeland, Shirley Chisholm, Toni Morrison, Grace Jones, Josephine Baker and Bessie Coleman.
What initially started out as a personal project has taken the internet by storm. “The positive feedback we have gotten has been tremendous. One woman got in contact with us to say she didn’t know about Mae Jemison until she was forty, and was happy that Lily is being exposed to her and these other trailblazers.”
Based on the feedback, Marc and Janine have expanded their project to include women outside of the Black community. “Malala was a no-brainer,” Marc says about the 17-year-old activist and Nobel Prize-winner. Another addition to the series is the humanitarian Mother Teresa. The family plans to continue their work which is not only educating Lily, but now the entire world!
“To be able to work with Lily to produce these photos, and have other people enjoy them,” he says, “is something that she can look back on… and cherish this throughout her life.”
Marc posts each completed portrait and a short bio on his Flickr page. You can view the entire series and updates there.