Until 19 months ago, Stephen Crowley spent his leisure time photographing architecture. But once the Dublin-based product designer’s daughter, Hannah, was born, he slipped into the same habit all new parents/amateur photographers fall into: photographing his baby.
The photos, which feature prominently in his Instagram feed, started out benignly enough, with Hannah pictured in typical states of baby bliss, eating mushy food in her high chair and playing in a pen filled with colourful balls.
Soon, however, images of the smiling child were interspersed with shots of her in dangerous settings. Suddenly, Hannah could be seen handling kitchen knives, scaling a stairway banister and climbing a ladder leading to the attic.
But Crowley assures that these images have been edited. And for good reason.
In an interview with Babble, he explains that Hannah was born with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a congential condition where the body produces too many activated immune cells. Risks include breathing problems, kidney abnormalities, enlarged liver and increased risk for leukemia.
Because the condition meant Hannah had to be kept in isolation for the first six months of her life, once she was able to go out in the world, Crowley and his wife were eager to make up for lost time.
He also wanted to seize the opportunity to give their loved ones a reprieve from worrying about Hannah’s illness.
“Considering how much she had been through in her first year and how delicate she was, I thought it would be funny to ‘worry’ friends and family with the image of her on the fence near the lake,” he said. “It got some great reactions, some who thought it was real and weren’t too happy, so I decided to make more.”
While their viral fame has drawn some ire from internet users — “someone [suggested] I should be shot,” he said — Crowley has channelled the attention to raise awareness for HLH and Be The Match, the bone-marrow registry that helped put Hannah on the path to recovery. (In Canada, anyone interested in donating can visit the Canadian Blood Services site.)
“An anonymous donor has given us a lifetime of smiles and happiness through the selfless act of donating their stem cells,” Crowley said. “I would hope the images bring a smile to people’s faces and show them they too could possibly offer the same to another family out there.”
As for Hannah, her father told Feature Shoot that she’s a happy kid, and he hopes these images will show that despite the little girl’s rough start, including chemotherapy, the family always remained positive.
“She has come out of this such a happy and resilient kid, proving laughter really is the best medicine — next to high doses of chemotherapy.”