Photography has been Stephen Crowley’s main hobby for the last 10 years. And while the Dublin product designer has spent much of his time photographing architecture, he tells Babble that when his daughter Hannah came along 19 months ago, all of that changed. Just like for most new parents, his baby became his favorite new subject — happily snapping photos of Hannah from the second she came home from the hospital.
But Hannah’s young life hasn’t been easy. Crowley explains that she was diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (or HLH), a rare immune disorder in which “the system fails to switch off after fighting infection, and begins to attack the organs.”
In fact, when she was first brought home from the hospital, Crowley says she had to be kept in isolation for several months, as doctors feared she was at risk of infection.
“Once we were allowed to take her out, we did as much as possible,” explains Crowley.
And he does mean as much as possible. Before long, an idea popped into his head that he thought would be fun to trick friends and family with.
“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 explains. To do so, he took both photos of Hannah at home (in a totally safe and not treacherous environment), and then Photoshopped her into another photo he took of the lake.
“It got some great reactions, some who thought it was real and weren’t too happy, so I decided to make more,” he explains.
And with each new photo, Hannah found herself in a slightly more precarious situation than the last …
And if you don’t know they’re fake, some can be straight-up terrifying.
Crowley says he made a bunch of the photos, and shared them on his Instagram without much fanfare. But as soon as he uploaded them to Reddit, things took off — and suddenly, he and Hannah shot to a bit of viral fame.
Going viral was “very surprising” for Crowley. He shares that the reactions have been mostly positive — “with some people not getting the joke and someone suggesting I should be shot.” (Yikes.)
But he’ll take the Internet haters any day of the week, considering the photos going viral mean Hannah’s story also goes viral — in turn spreading some much-needed awareness for HLH, as well as Be The Match, a bone marrow registry that helped her.
“An anonymous donor has given us a lifetime of smiles and happiness through the selfless act of donating their stem cells,” says Crowley. “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.”
Crowley adds that signing up is “very straightforward,” and that the procedure “isn’t as invasive as people think” (if you’re actually called to donate). In fact, it’s pretty similar to donating blood. If you’re interested, you can do so right here.