Meet Ryan, the man-child who was born nine weeks – over two months – premature and weighing just under 3lbs to his parents, Matt and Alyssa MacMillan.
Matt, a Product Engineer and budding photographer, decided to spin the narrative a little by placing his baby boy into some pretty adult scenarios, telling us he ‘liked to joke that [Ryan] wasn’t premature, he was just advanced’.
The resulting photo series sees a then-tiny Ryan take on some everyday challenges most guys will seriously relate to on a deeply ‘blokey’ level.
From playing poker with ‘the boys’ to carving the Thanksgiving turkey, Ryan absolutely nails being a modern day man who can, as his dad puts it, blow leaves ‘like a champ’ and ‘chop that wood’.
The series was constructed to follow Ryan throughout his future manhood on fishing trips, to the gym and as he does DIY around the house, like tuning up a Prius and mowing the lawn.
The MacMillan family unit of four, from Delran, New Jersey, are no strangers to hilarious Photoshop pranks. It all began with the birth of their little girl, Ella, two-and-a-half years ago.
Matt said he didn’t want to inundate his family and friends with the usual baby portraits so he orchestrated a set of photos of Ella ‘playing sports’.
Aside from being an aspirational display of physical fitness for all baby girls across the globe, Matt said the sports theme gave him ‘a lot of opportunities for different pictures’… Like this fantastic impression of Tony Hawk.
It’s certainly one to keep hold of for the family history books.
Matt also joked he liked the idea of spicing up the baby photo albums a bit:
When I was younger, I always rolled my eyes at parents that filled their social media with endless photos of their babies so I told myself that when I had kids, I’d do my best to make my pictures funny and interesting.
By that time, I’d dabbled in Photoshop and figured I’d make her look like she was doing things that babies really couldn’t do yet.
But the dad-of-two quickly conceded, with full disclosure, now he’s a parent, he ‘totally just post regular pictures of [his] kids too’ so understands why our news feeds are they way they are; full of smiling babies who can’t play football.
Matt tells us when he and Alyssa found out another baby was on the way, they made up their mind to stage another photoshoot for their son, too.
I wanted to do something similar with Ryan. But I wasn’t sure what Ryan’s photo theme was going to be until he was born 9 weeks early.
We tried to keep as much of a positive attitude as possible while he spent 6 weeks in the NICU so I liked to joke that rather than premature, he was just ‘advanced’.
So, I thought it’d be funny to pretend he was already a full grown man and have him do manly grown up things.
You know, such as going out to a 9 to 5 job in accountancy in a fancy flat cap and with a briefcase perfectly proportioned to his body… Like the other big guys do.
Once the plan was hatched, Ryan and Matt had a lot of fun constructing the scenarios together, with the lion’s share of work going into the set ups, staging and editing, whereas the shoots themselves took only 20 minutes each.
Matt recalled the process, saying:
From that point, I just tried to think of as many manly activities as I could. We did a different shoot each week for about three months.
Rather than an aspirational thing, it was more to just have fun with it and make people laugh. Whether he grows up to be manly or unmanly, we’d love him just the same.
In response to those who thought Ryan was in some sort of danger – or had ever handled a razor – Matt reassured us he didn’t put his baby in harm’s way, and Photoshop did all the heavy lifting.
Matt was happy to tell us Ryan is on the mend after a tough start, but he’s a fighter and is growing more and more every day into the slightly bigger little man he was born to be!
His proud dad added:
Ryan is now six months old and finally on the growth chart! He’s definitely a happy baby and is smiling and talking all the time.
I was surprised by the amount of feedback from other parents of premature kids and people who were premature themselves, saying that they know the struggles and that they really enjoyed the pictures and the positive outlook they portrayed.
It was really cool to get that positive feedback, especially on the internet where article comments turn negative so quickly.
What a recovery. But don’t take our word for it. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words…
So I’m going to let this little gem of Ryan bench pressing at the gym do the talking.
You’re a champ, Ryan, and you probably have the coolest dad in the whole world.