Thursday, August 31, 2017

The dad who turned kids with diseases and disabilities into superheroes

Every child needs to feel empowered, but kids who have cancer and disabilities can sometimes use an extra dose of you-can-do-it. Enter commercial photographer Josh Rossi, 32, a father of two in Salt Lake City. He was used to making photo subjects look cool for his job. For Halloween last year, he dressed up his three-year-old as Wonder Woman, in the spirit of showing her that girls could do anything, and had her recreate scenes from the movie. The photos went viral, and he heard from parents of sick kids, asking if he could do something similar for their children. And so, he did.

Josh invited six kids all under 8 years old, including ones with cancer and disabilities, to pose as Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Cyborg and Flash. Costume designer Julie Whitley worked her magic, and Rossi did a photo shoot one day last month. He recently posted the results on his website, dubbing the group The Justice League.

Josh wanted to portray the kids' challenges as strengths. For instance, kryptonite weakens Superman's heart; Tegan Pettit, the kid dressed up as Superman, has half a heart and is waiting for a heart transplant. Zaiden Solrow, a boy with ADHD, is prone to running, and so Josh morphed him into Flash. Kayden Kinckle, a double amputee, became a cyborg. 

Now, I wouldn't call my child's disability a "weakness," a purely negative connotation. Max's cerebral palsy poses challenges for him, to be sure, but it is also an integral part of who he is. His CP is no more of a weakness than, say, a guy's bald head is. Again: Just part of the package. That said, it's great to see these kids' delight at being transformed into superheroes, ready to take on the world—and leap over naysayers in a single bound.

Photo: Justice League Kids video/YouTube


  1. I do hope it is realized that not all disabled people who use some adaptive equipment whether it be prosthetics or a hearing aid(like me) like being called a cyborg. I know that for some people it's probably a jokey label but it was something that I was called as an insult.

    1. Ah. I am sorry you experienced that. I wonder if there is something to be said about people with disability owning some of those terms that have traditionally been used against them--I'm thinking of "spaz," I know PWD who use that term.

    2. I think disabled people can reclaim the terms used against them-even as simply as saying disabled instead of something like "differently abled". As long as the person with the marginalized identity is in control of the language they identify as/with, all is good.

    3. True ... true! The marginalisers and the marginalised and who we are at different times and places.

      Technologically aware young people do integrate the insults of the day, Kathryn.

      Even things like "robot" in a slacker school environment have the implication of "slave" or "worker" or "striver".

      As for me, in the late 2000s Ju Gosling had for ten years described "My life as a cyborg" about the technology which empowered her. [She has muscular-skeletal stuff going on - Scheremann's - in the back]. And she developed "Abnormal" - "the scientific view of disability" which was awesome for all the nerds and the geeks in the back [and, yes, these are ableist too - setting one or a narrow set of abilities as the norm for a group of people and/or for society].

      Ju Gosling's MY NOT SO SECRET LIFE AS A CYBORG Seven pages of cyborg life

      From Borg to Cyborg

      Cyborg Life Today

      Freaks in Control: Representations of Sexuality in British Disability Art - this might be an idea for the artist on where to go next.

      Cyborg Performance Art in StatWeb

      Probably the first "reclamations" I was exposed to was NOBODY NOWHERE where Donna Williams and her dust jacket cover listed all the names her society and community had called her - ever.

      Someone else who claims "cyborg" is Lady Renegade.

      Claims and counter-claims.

      Cyborg in the life and writing of Lady Renegade

      Empathy as a Superpower

  2. This is awesome! I would love to get one done of my daughter cruising in her wheelchair!



Thanks for sharing!

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