Five-year-old Lily Bushelle is an old soul. Her black-and-white photo reenactment of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman pilot, looks as though it could have been taken in 1921, the year Coleman got her pilot’s license.
The image, which shows the little girl wearing an aviator’s helmet and fur coat alongside the original photograph on which it’s based, is one of nine in a series launched in February to celebrate Black History Month. The project has become so popular that Marc Bushelle, Lily’s photographer father, extended the series through March for Women’s History Month.
“There’s so many women who have shaped history that are not traditional names that you would [think of],” he says. That’s why he deliberately designed the photo series to highlight “not only iconic women but also trailblazers in their respective fields.”
The series began with heroines from the past: Coleman, for whom Lily’s kindergarten class is named, and Mae Jemison, the first black woman astronaut, whom Lily learned about in school. But Bushelle is incorporating more contemporary figures into the series, and they’re not all black. He bought the children’s book Malala Yousafzai: Warrior With Words to educate his daughter about the Nobel Peace Prize–winning Pakistani education activist. Yousafzai is the subject of the project’s latest image.
“When [the photos] started to be recognized a lot, we were really taken aback, and it just kind of fueled our fire to continue,” says Bushelle about the project’s momentum. “Especially if maybe other little girls can be inspired and [the photos] can give them a little bit more self-confidence. It’s just the icing on the cake.”