Look with your eyes, see with your heart

By Hannah Schenker

Stephanie Mullowney’s photography career began a little over 2 years ago when her beautiful daughter Hannah Grace was born.

Initially taking hundreds of photos of her sweet girl on her iPhone and a small camera gifted to her at her daughter’s baby shower, Stephanie began receiving all sorts of positive encouragement about her skills behind the lens. It took the advice of a pro-videographer boss and friend, for her to finally buy a good camera, and become a photographer for a living. She hasn’t looked back since, but that could be because of the magic element in this story: Hannah Grace.

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So…back to the beginning of the story. Stephanie thought she had met the man of her dreams in Maui, dreamily getting married in the sunset on the beach and then soon after learning a baby was on the way. But things did not turn out to be that simple. Life had other plans.

“My OBGYN in Maui said I was “measuring small” and indicated that there was a possibility my daughter would be born with Down Syndrome but I would ‘need to be tested’. I immediately refused in disgust of such a statement. Then she proceeded to offer me the number to the abortion clinic and told me I had ‘options’. Can I just be honest here and say that I wanted to punch her at this point? I left that appointment angry to say the least and in awe of the heartless suggestions I was just given.”

Aware of the many physical challenges ahead for a child potentially with Down Syndrome, Stephanie decided to move back to Tennessee, where she was from, so she could bring her daughter into this world in a more supportive and well-equipped environment. The big day came and Hannah Grace entered this world at 6lbs 13oz and 19 inches long.

“The moment they laid her on my chest… I knew.”

They took her away for testing and came back to confirm she did in fact have Down Syndrome, and that she may also have leukemia. They also confirmed she had 3 holes in her heart.

“And you know what? I loved her even more.”

Unfortunately for Stephanie and Hannah Grace, her husband could not cope with the news and disappeared when Hannah Grace was just 5 days old. Left on her own with such a frightening situation, Stephanie had to rely on family and outside assistance to get by.

“We were a charity case, vagabonds, and abandoned.”

But Stephanie has not let these hardships take her down. Instead she began to take photos of her daughter, “I made it my mission to prove to the world just how beautiful these individuals are”.

“We quickly gained a large following after her ‘butterfly baby’ picture went viral  and people were pouring their hearts into ours and sharing their stories with us for encouragement. People were loving her pictures and she quickly became a kind of the ‘Global Sweetheart’. The more pictures I posted the more people started commenting and asking who my photographer was, to which I would reply, ‘I don’t have one, I take all of her pictures'”

Stephanie learned how to use her new camera, came up with a name for her business, “and wrote my tagline down on a piece of torn notebook paper…And so it began. I officially opened for business March of this year”.

The photographs speak for themselves – Stephanie truly captures the innate beauty of these children of all abilities, which is such a gift to this world.

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“I always say that each photograph tells a story. Each story touches a heart. And when a heart is touched, it is changed, and when the heart is changed so is the mind. That is my goal. I shoot the beauty inside. That’s what I love to capture.”

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If you are in the USA – check out the non-profit organizations Stephanie volunteers  for: The Down Syndrome Association of Middle TN, & The Best Buddies Organization. These organizations do an astounding amount of work for the special needs community.

This October 29 in Nashville, TN, The Buddy Walk will be taking place – a nationwide event that celebrates Down Syndrome Awareness Month. To support, register, donate, sponsor, or volunteer you can visit www.somethingextra.org

For the month of September and October only, Stephanie will be doing sessions for a brand new Collection called “The Ribbons Collection”. This Collection of images will be specifically for any individual who represents any ribbon. For example, Down Syndrome colored ribbons are yellow and blue, breast cancer is pink, etc.

Get in touch with her here or visit her website to see the other collections.


Hannah Schenker is a freelance writer, editor and regular contributor to The Natural Parent Magazine. She lives with a touch of magic in Golden Bay, New Zealand.