Sterling’s Strong Woman Photography

September 5th, 2010  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  9 Comments

Sterling is a photographer near NYC who is working on a series of photos of strong women — whatever that looks like to each individual woman. In this article, she explains her approach:

“As a passionate amateur portraitist I know we all have pretty much no idea what we look like: this is a fact of living our lives, year after year from the inside, instead of making current and objective judgments from a distance. We have these images of ourselves in our minds that are bizarre little golems cobbled together from experience, disappointment, and a metric ton of opinions that just aren’t relevant anymore. Like the drawer in the house that collects souvenir magnets from states visited, packages of birthday candles, and photos too poorly taken to be presented and too miscellaneous to file…

[After working out] I looked less like a novelty pumpkin, but now I looked like I could carry a child out of a burning building, and as helpful a skill as that might be when civilization falls apart, I was lost as to where that fit in the spectrum of desirability. I needed to be told, and the teevee and the glossy magazines were mute on this point. I couldn’t find anyone who looked like me in them. I was in uncharted territory, and all it said at the edge where I’d fallen off the map was “here there be dragons…

Because this has been such an important revelation in my own life, and because of my experience as a portrait photographer, I have started a series for my own passion. I am taking photos to show strong women as beautiful women for people who don’t yet realize that they are the same thing…

If I can help just one other woman give up an old internal image that is making her unhappy, I will have considered myself to have won. If I can show just one woman that she’s pretty enough that Fridays alone are optional, I will be too smug to be endured.

If you know women you think would be interested in working with me on this project who are near, or can get to, New York City, I would love to get in touch. The idea that female beauty is a singular, helpless, and angular ideal and that those of us who don’t conform are not beautiful is wrong and making people unhappy.

It’s time to empty out that drawer.”

If there are any women in the NYC area interested in working with Sterling, send me an email or post in the comments and I’ll make sure she gets it.


  1. Michal says:

    September 5th, 2010at 1:46 pm(#)

    I live in NYC and would love to find out more. I’m emailing you right now.

  2. Heather says:

    September 5th, 2010at 6:32 pm(#)

    Does Sterling have a blog or website? I love what she says here and would love to read or see more about what she does or has to say.

  3. Isabela says:

    September 5th, 2010at 6:39 pm(#)

    I’m in NYC, and would like to get involved in that project.

  4. Terry Gibbs says:

    September 5th, 2010at 8:55 pm(#)

    From a male perspective I find female self image interesting.

    The first time I met Bev Francis was 1980 (two years pre Pumping Iron 2), it was our nats at the Sydney opera house, and I photoed the first offical 300lb bench by a woman.

    In our state we had some serious female powerlifters, but by todays comparison (they were all natural) Krista made many of them look small.

    Bev had broken the national record in shot and was on our T & F circuit along with her friend Gael Mulhall (3rd OG shot 84), so I had a image in my mind.

    My mental image was pretty spot on and then a funny thing happened. She opened her mouth. I was talking to a very femine woman.

    No matter what, everytime I see her photos I retain that image.

  5. Lori says:

    September 5th, 2010at 10:04 pm(#)

    About a year after I started my “live-like-I-matter-to-me” lifestyle, I started to wonder if I had gone too far. Sure, after loosing 40 pounds I wasn’t squishy anymore, but are visible triceps really attractive? That is when I received a very well timed Athleta catalog in the mail. Seeing a book full of women with muscles that were obviously attractive changed my perspective and gave me a new confidence. I hope your project reaches other women as assurance and inspiration, the way that piece of marketing reached me.

    I’d be interested in seeing the results and I wish for you great light! =)

  6. Mistress Krista says:

    September 6th, 2010at 6:03 am(#)

    @Terry – Wow! Awesome to see you posting here! :)

  7. Lauren Vigna says:

    September 6th, 2010at 6:15 am(#)

    As a woman involved in multiple sports including crossfit, ‘strong is beautiful’ is something i get to encounter frequently in my day to day life. I would love to be a part of your project!!

  8. Mistress Krista says:

    September 6th, 2010at 7:25 am(#)

    @Heather: Here is Sterling’s site:

  9. Sterling says:

    September 10th, 2010at 1:49 pm(#)

    Thank you so much everyone for your encouragement and interest! The response has been unexpectedly overwhelming, and I look forward to meeting all the energetic women who wish to model.

    If you would like to participate, you can send me an email at

    Thank you so much!

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