At age 25, Annie Griffiths became one of the first-ever female photographers employed by National Geographic. In the years that followed, Annie traveled the globe in pursuit of amazing pictures, while simultaneously raising two children on the go. Annie has photographed in nearly 150 countries and her work has appeared in LIFE, Smithsonian, Fortune, and many other publications. In addition to her editorial work, Annie also founded Ripple Effect Images, a collective of photographers who document programs that are empowering girls and women throughout the developing world. “Dreaming big is something kids are born with,” Annie says. “We all come into this world really not putting any limitations on ourselves. But if you continue to tell kids to dream big, to try big, to think big, it ignites that precious curiosity.” Annie admires that the Disney princess characters “break the mold, get out of the stereotypes, and take on challenges,” especially Belle, who “was kind and wasn’t afraid to take on bullies.”
Kate T. Parker
Kate Parker is a mother, wife, former collegiate soccer player, and professional photographer who shoots both fine-art projects and commercial work for clients across North America. Her “Strong Is the New Pretty” photo series has received global acclaim and recognition. The project has also inspired Kate to launch a philanthropic arm of Strong Is the New Pretty, partnering with organizations that invest in girls' health and education. When she's not taking pictures, Kate can often be found at home in Atlanta, Georgia, coaching her daughters' soccer teams, whom she always encourages to dream big. “Dreaming big means dreaming without limits of any kind,” says Kate. “Dreaming of a goal and creating the opportunity to invest 100 percent of yourself into that goal to achieve it.” Citing Disney’s Beauty and the Beast heroine Belle as a role model for her girls, Kate says, “Belle is ambitious. She realizes that knowledge is her way to the larger life she is dreaming of and doesn’t allow anyone’s opinions affect her. She didn’t change to please anyone and I love that.”
Nikon Ambassador and National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale has traveled to more than 90 countries, bearing witness not only to violence and conflict, but also to surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit. Throughout the years, Ami has lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and donned a panda suit— keeping true to her belief in the importance of “living the story.” In 2009, after shooting a powerful story on the transport and release of one the world’s last white rhinos, Ami shifted her focus to today’s most compelling wildlife and environmental stories. Ami says that for her, dreaming big means “living your life with courage, seeking a purpose and silencing the inner critic until you have found your life's meaning.” Ami loves “fearless” Moana “because of her resilience and ability to live her life on her own terms.” Brave and adventurous just like the globetrotting photographer, Vitale says of her favorite character, “[Moana] jumped off cliffs, sailed the ocean and voiced her opinion as a true and confident leader. She persevered and proved that an independent young woman was just as capable of saving their island as anyone else.”
Paula Bronstein is a photojournalist based out of Bangkok, Thailand. Originally from Boston, Paula spent the first 14 years of her career working for newspapers including the Hartford Courant and the Chicago Tribune before relocating to work overseas. Paula’s award-winning images have been published in almost every globally recognized publication and her subjects range from presidents and kings to natural disasters and political turmoil. As a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News in 2011, Paula says her work is inspired by people who “go beyond the norm and follow their passions”. She stresses the importance of dreaming big, and relates to Princess Merida, who, like herself, “[went] against all the norms to venture out on her own and doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do.”
English photographer Scarlet Page studied photography at the University of Westminster in the early 1990s. She quickly developed her own fresh, documentary style traveling America with 1994’s Lollapalooza tour, where she shot legendary bands like the Beastie Boys and Smashing Pumpkins. Since then, Scarlet has continued shooting musicians and has contributed her work to numerous exhibitions. She has also worked extensively for charities, including the ABC Trust, the PDSA, Teenage Cancer Trust and Warchild. “Dreaming big to me is about believing in yourself and having faith that you can follow your dreams, the passion radiates out in everything you do,” says Scarlet. Like Princess Merida, Scarlet prides herself on following her instincts. “[Merida] listens to her inner voice and follows the path she feels she is meant to explore. She believes in herself and is brave.”
Cristina Mittermeier is a photographer, a writer, a mother of three, and a marine biologist who believes that “dreaming big is the only way to dream.” In 2005, she founded the prestigious International League of Conservation Photographers to provide a platform for photographers working on environmental issues. Cristina's award-winning work has been published in hundreds of publications, including National Geographic and TIME. In 2015 she and her partner, Canadian photographer Paul Nicklen, co-founded SeaLegacy, an organization dedicated to promoting the protection of the world's oceans through storytelling. Sharing a love for the ocean, Cristina relates to Moana, who she describes as “[having] an unwavering determination to protect and celebrate her culture. She follows an innate calling to decide for herself who she wants to be.”
Ashima Narain has worked as a portrait, fashion, and documentary photographer. She is the former Photo Editor of National Geographic Traveler India and current member of National Geographic Creative. Ashima has also worked as a cinematographer for various projects, and has directed and shot two award-winning wildlife documentaries for the Discovery Channel, “In The Pink” and “The Last Dance.” She has been the recipient of the Commonwealth Photographer of the Year in 2004, the Ramnath Goenka Nature & Environment Photographer of the Year in 2006, and the Best Asian Wildlife Documentary award from Japan Wildlife Film Festival in 2008. Ashima says that her travels have shown her that “wherever you are in the world, you will face challenges.” But dreaming big, and “using [your] imagination” to overcome hardship, is “absolutely essential for everybody.” She continues, “I believe that the relative size of the dream is not as important as having the temerity to dream it.” She admires Merida, “who dislikes tradition and its responsibilities, but has to negotiate them in order to understand her own identity.” In doing this she has to think of others and her actions impact the entire kingdom.
Luisa Dörr believes that “Dreaming big is seeing life with no fear and no boundaries. You can be anyone you want to be. Dreaming big is when you know dreams can become facts.” Growing up in Lajeado, Brazil, Luisa dreamed of becoming a designer, but later studied photography at the Lutheran University of Brazil in Canoas. Today, she specializes in contemporary portraiture and her work has been featured in exhibits in her home country of Brazil as well as the United States, Spain, France, Portugal, England and Russia. Her work has also been featured in publications such as TIME, CNN, The New Yorker, and Marie Claire. In 2017, TIME named Luisa one of their 34 female photographers to follow. She relates to Princess Merida, because she “defies traditional female roles” and like Luisa herself, is “strong, empowered, and self-determined.”
Based in Amman, Jordan but working across multiple countries in the region, Banan Alawneh is one of the Middle East’s most prominent female photographers. She started her career in the field of graphic design and later began prop styling, creating unique sets for editorials, and art-directing fashion shoots. Finally, marrying her many creative talents, Banan became the fashion photographer of U Magazine in Jordan. Her projects explore such themes as elegance, beauty, community, and the self. In her career, Banan has produced many female subject-focused collaborations for some of the region's biggest media outlets. "Dreaming big to me means setting high standards to the ideas I have and raising the bar to achieve them,” says Banan “Nothing is too big to be accomplished."
Danielle (Dani) Sykes
Danielle Sykes grew up in a tiny town nestled in the mountains of Vermont where being passionate about nature and adventure is a way of life. While working as a respiratory therapist in the ICU, caring for critically ill patients, Danielle was driven to live her own life to the fullest and turned her passion for photography into a career. Today, Danielle works for Hasbro, shooting both lifestyle and product imagery that captures the joy and excitement of play and kids infinate imaginations. She believes that dreaming big means, “never discounting your ideas as crazy, but instead finding ways to make them real because you wholeheartedly believe that your best adventure hasn’t happened yet.” Danielle says there’s one princess she relates to the most. “[Mulan] grew up in a place where there were certain traditions that no one dared to deviate from. I grew up in a town that was very isolated where most everyone was coming from one similar perspective. We both had to push ourselves beyond what was considered to be normal based on our upbringing to learn about what is out there in the world in order to discover who we truly are.” Explaining further why she feels so inspired by the brave princess, she says, “Mulan is such a great example of a woman who ran with a crazy idea without worrying about what others might think. She completely defied tradition, obstacles and gender stereotypes to stand up for what she believed in. Mulan didn’t even considering letting doubt get the best of her. Instead she instantly got to work putting her ideas into action.”
Calliope Karvounis is a proud Greek native and a mother of two. Her passion for photography led her to pursue her studies abroad in London and Milan, before building her life in New York. Throughout the years, she has worked for many international publications and campaigns. She is the author of two books, “Traditional Greek Costumes,” which features people dressed in traditional Greek style, and “Children of the Light,” which features both well-known and ordinary people united by their youth, beauty, and hope. Calliope says, “when it comes to dreaming, I will always say, ‘Dream Big’ – never small! Dreaming is so important for both children and adults. Dreams are what makes the world go round.” Like Ariel, Calliope says she’s always been “daring and curious to discover new worlds” through her photography. “Since I can remember,” she says, “photographs have always mesmerized me and taken me to different places.”
Theresa Balderas grew up assisting her mother, also a professional photographer, but she didn’t realize that she too would one day share the same passion. After initially studying interior design, Theresa realized creating images was her true calling. Upon graduation from photography school in New York City, Theresa focused on fashion, creating a solo exhibition about Fashion Week, shooting for magazines like Elle and Vogue, and specialized in creating editorials and look-books for emerging designers. Currently, Theresa focuses on children’s fashion photography. “Dreaming big starts by you believing in yourself,” she says. “You are truly capable of achieving your dreams as long as you put your heart into it.”
As the owner of a Tel Aviv-based photo studio, Israeli photographer Ronit Cohen is inspired by women in sports. She says that dreaming big is part of her life’s philosophy. “Maybe you will not fulfill all your dreams, maybe you will have disappointments, but it's better to live your life with big expectations and be disappointed than not have expectations at all.” Explaining that she relates to Disney’s iconic mermaid Ariel, Ronit says, “Ariel's dream is to break boundaries and to move forward.” Explaining how closely she relates to Ariel’s “brave and determined” spirit, Ronit says, “I love to challenge myself, to dream big and to experience new adventures. I feel that I have also made some brave decisions in my life.”
Dilan Bozyel was born in Diyarbakır, Turkey in 1985. She studied photography at the London Academy of Art, Media & TV. She had various exhibitions in many cities across Europe. Now based back in her home country, she often shoots editorial photography for publications including Vogue Turkey. Dilan also often strives to shine a light on women’s issues through her work by holding and contributing to numerous female-centric exhibitions and supporting the Girls Not Brides campaign, which aims to end child marriage around the world. “Dreaming big is waking up every morning to create a better version of myself,” the photographer says. “Learning something new along the road and working hard to make what is impossible possible.” Dilan says she relates to Tangled’s Rapunzel, because “She bravely, self-confidently, and patiently overcomes every kind of difficulty.” Like the artist herself, “[Rapunzel] has an immense enthusiasm to see the world and is not afraid to take up new challenges.”
Meg Schwartz is an 18-year-old high school senior at Notre Dame de Sion High School in Kansas City, Kansas. She is a Girl Up Teen Advisor alumna from the class of 2016-2017.
During her freshman year, Meg came across Girl Up’s Instagram page by chance, and has enjoyed working with the campaign ever since. When she’s not working with Girl Up, she spends her time serving as co-editor-in-chief of her school newspaper, hiking and spending time with her friends and her older sister Ellie. As an aspiring photographer, Meg was asked to lend her talent to the Dream Big Princess global photography campaign by capturing Girl Up Celebrity Champions at their annual Leadership Summit in Washington. D.C.
Margarita Kareva lives in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Her unique, fairytale-like style of photography has made her one of Russia’s most recognized fantasy photographers. She regularly teaches master classes in Russia and abroad and her works can be found in various international magazines. Margarita says that dreaming big “is what helps me move forward, stay young at heart and gives me a great desire to live, learn, and create. The moment I stop dreaming would be the moment I lose my identity.” My favorite princess is Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She is smart and is not afraid of rebelling against society as she will do anything for her loved ones. She also does not judge others by their appearances. I can relate to her love of books. Books taught me how to dream.
Lulu Liao is a photographer and designer who lives and works in Beijing. Her work can be found in a variety of publications both in China and around the world. Lulu specializes in documentary and travel photography, as well as graphic design. She is passionate about raising awareness of women’s issues through her work. Lulu says she dreams big to “continue to improve [myself], to meet challenges and to try new things. The dream is the driving force that pushes me forward all the time.” Lulu finds inspiration in the story of Mulan because “[she is] an ordinary girl who becomes a hero. She is kind and brave and has the wisdom and tolerance to help others.”
Mayumi Rui hails from Aichi, Japan. In college, Mayumi took a year off from pursuing a teaching degree to embark on a journey around the world that would solidify a love for photography. In 2011, a photography tour of Laos where she interacted with children and their families sparked her interest in using photography as a useful medium for telling stories about the people she meets and the countries she visits on trips to Africa and Asia. Mayumi says her mom was the one who always inspired her to follow her dreams. “There are times when dreaming big – without noticing that I was dreaming -- has led to my dreaming turning into real goals before I realized it,” she says. Possessing an adventurous spirit just like Princess Merida, Mayumi says of their shared traits, “[Merida] is adventurous to the point of disregarding danger. And her will is strong enough to change even fate. I like all these things about her!”
Laura Zalenga was born in a small city in the south of Germany. She spent her childhood in treehouses and hammocks reading every book she could find – especially fairytales. After high school, she developed a growing passion for photography and started her own business as a freelance photographer in 2015. Laura believes that photography is a powerful tool that gives you the ability to tell stories, give hope, and make dreams come true. “Dreaming big means to not be stopped by the doubts of others,” says Laura. She relates to Merida, noting that “she dreams big and shows it by listening to her own heart instead of what others or society imagine her future to look like.”