The Confidence Project


It was perhaps unintentional.

Older girls had bullied portrait photographer Brenda Eckhardt’s daughter, Skylar, then 10 years old.

The experience left Skylar’s confidence shaken, and her mom’s heart aching—for Skylar, yes, but also for the other girls. “It was hard to process the bullying,” she says, of its effects on her daughter. But, Eckhardt considered it from an awareness angle, too: “Perhaps girls don’t realize the impact they have when they’re mean.”

As often happens for artists, feelings channel and resolutions come through their art. Not knowing where it would lead when she put her camera to it, Eckhardt wanted to give the situation a positive and empowering resolution by capturing teen girls as inspiring mentors. “Girls that age do a lot of things—and they don’t get a lot of recognition. There seems to be a real focus on the negativity,” she says.

Eckhardt asked a handful of portrait clients, all high-school senior girls, to pose with no makeup, no hair product, no fashion— just jeans, plain t-shirts and their own natural beauty.

But they would don something that says so much more than any coat of mascara or outfit can.

They would wear a personal statement or inspiration across their hands. “It’s about you,” Eckhardt told them. It would, she thought, tell the viewer—as much as the girl herself—what confidence and beauty really meant. They would be words with the right kind of power. Eckhardt called it The Confidence Project.

Her project, says Eckhardt, “goes to the core of being a girl. There’s so much complication with being a girl and being with other girls. I don’t know that lots of parents or girls talk about this. It definitely hangs for a lifetime.”

To overcome that, Eckhardt wants to show girls that we can find strength and confidence inside ourselves, digging deep if we have to.

Skylar did. Now 12, she helps with the project. She’s back to her bubbly self, her confidence fortified, her perspectives about it, too.

What, then, is real confidence? Eckhardt’s answer is wise: “Not thinking about it. Being unapologetically who you are.”

When she started it one year ago, Eckhardt didn’t know where The Confidence Project would lead. We think it has the power of a movement.

– Kate Bast

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