Today is World Meningitis Day and Australian photographer Anne Geddes (right) is launching an e-book of photos of children from around the world who've lost limbs and digits to the bacterial infection. It's called Protecting Our Tomorrows and Benjamin, 15, above, with his parents, is one of her models.
Geddes, known for capturing the innocence of babies, says this project is about showing the beauty and resilience of survivors. (See our earlier BLOOM interview). Meningococcal disease is a deadly bacterial infection that inflames brain and spine tissue and infects the blood.
Geddes says she knew she'd achieved her mission when an eight-year-old boy looked at his photos and said: "For the first time, you made me proud of my amputations."
To tie the photos together, Geddes chose the theme of birds' nests.
"I decided to link all of these images in a really subtle way to what a bird's nest represents," she says. "Hope and protection and family and new beginnings. And, more importantly, deceptive strength: nests hold their elements and survive even though they look so fragile."
The project also aims to raise awareness of the importance of vaccinations and quick medical attention if your child has the symptoms of meningitis: fever, vomiting, headache, a stiff neck, sensitivity to light and drowsiness.
Capturing the children's differences in a way that emphasizes their wholeness was a challenge, Geddes says. "I didn't want to portray these children in a way that was a shock. I wanted the viewers' first reaction to be 'what a gorgeous little girl.' When you're with these kids for more than five minutes you just forget that they don't have legs, or arms, or both."
The children are from Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Brazil, Germany and Canada. The project is funded by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics. The e-book, which includes the story of each child, is exquisite.