Small su­per­heroes with big hearts

They’ve stared ill­ness and bul­ly­ing in the face – and for their brav­ery pho­tog­ra­pher Josh Rossi has turned them into icons

YOU (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - COMPILED BY SANDY COOK

THEY’RE the bravest, the most pow­er­ful, the fastest, the fiercest, the smartest and the strong­est. They can take on any bad­die and beat them – and no feat is too big or small to con­quer. Su­per­heroes have dom­i­nated the sil­ver and small screens for years now but for John Rossi, a pho­tog­ra­pher who lives in Los An­ge­les in the USA, the real he­roes aren’t big-bucks A-lis­ters.

His su­per­heroes are young chil­dren who bat­tle de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­eases and face crush­ing re­jec­tion and bul­ly­ing at school. That’s why he chose to show them as su­per­heroes – in a project that’s earned him more than 100 mil­lion hits on YouTube.

“Many of us want to be su­per­heroes in real life,” he says on his blog. “We want to be Su­per­man and fly, have in­cred­i­ble strength like Won­der Woman and su­per speed like The Flash.

“Some peo­ple, though, al­ready have these su­per­pow­ers. I set out a few months ago to find the REAL Jus­tice League and pho­to­graph them. The kids that my team and I chose have been through hell and back and have real su­per­hu­man strength.”

Josh, with the help of his wife, Rox­ana, ini­tially chose six ill and dis­abled chil­dren to be Jus­tice League su­per­heroes. “Rox­ana, who pro­duced the shoot, spent weeks search­ing un­til she fi­nally found the Jus­tice League kids.”

But dur­ing the search he re­alised many kids weren’t only fight­ing se­ri­ous health prob­lems – they were be­ing bul­lied too. So he em­barked on a sec­ond project in­spired by the lat­est Avengers movie, In­fin­ity War, this time declar­ing war on bul­ly­ing.

The images, he says, show these spe­cial chil­dren to be the su­per­heroes they re­ally are.

“Go­ing into this project, Rox­ana and I didn’t know the heart­break­ing de­tails of each kid’s story. We didn’t know Jack­son Som­mers had 35% of his brain miss­ing and that kids pushed him down and spat on him at school.

“We didn’t know Syd­ney Ger­ardis was se­cretly con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide when her close friends told her they’d throw a party if she died. “We knew we had to help these kids take a stand against bul­ly­ing.”

‘The idea was to show­case their inner strength in a way that would bring a smile to their faces as well as oth­ers strug­gling with sim­i­lar is­sues’

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