Avengers kids photographer Josh Rossi talks about his anti-bullying photo series and how he got Jaxon Bieber on board as 'Thor'

Avengers kids photographer Josh Rossi talks about his anti-bullying photo series and how he got Jaxon Bieber on board as 'Thor'

They are the larger-than-life characters, with their outlandish feats and unselfish thoughts at the core of their existence.

These are some of the most obvious reasons, why, regardless of age, the love for superheroes, whether in their comic avatars or in their big-screen portrayals, just refuses to die. 

Especially in recent times, marked by the DC vs Marvel rivalry, the ever-popular comic book heroes have grown out of their fictional characterization, to become symbolic of the ideals that they represent - justice, unity, protection of the weaker among others.

And this is the recurring theme that runs through photographer Josh Rossi's superhero photo series.

To the uninitiated, the series might seem like a de rigueur promotional shoot for a superhero blockbuster at first glance.

But look again, and you will realize that the subjects, dressed up in exquisite costumes, and posing as their favorite superhero characters are just a bunch of regular kids with some extraordinary qualities.

For Florence-born Rossi, the pet project began with his daughter, Nellee, whom he successfully turned into a mini version of Gal Gadot-played DC hero Wonder Woman.

Soon, requests started pouring in from every corner, and the next thing we knew was that Rossi was turning six disabled kids into members of the Justice League - an experience that the commercial photographer describes as extremely "inspiring". 

Other than being stunning visual treats, Rossi's pictures also serve as great plotlines, considering the unique background of all his young heroes. As it turns out, it's this same knack for creating an image with a backstory that has fueled a second superhero picture series, once again starring children, but this time as Avengers.

Aptly timed to coincide with the release of the upcoming Marvel flick 'Avengers: Infinity War,' in the latest series, Rossi turns some 15 odd children, who have been victims of bullying into indomitable saviors. And lending a star-studded hand to this evocative project is Justin Bieber's brother, Jaxon, 8, who wields the powers of the God of Thunder alongside the other mini-Avengers.

Given the brewing interest surrounding the series, we got Rossi to dish some details exclusively for Meaww about the project, especially on Jaxon's turn as Thor.

Read the full interview below:  

Thanos serves the big bully while Avengers portray the fighting spirit - your latest superhero series certainly piques interest, how did you conceive the idea? 

Rossi: The idea couldn't be better planned with the movie. I love the Avengers and when I saw the trailer for the new movie, I knew that it was going to pair up perfectly with anti-bullying. The theme of the movie seemed to be about one big bully trying to take over the universe. I saw a lot of people and kids victimized around me and wanted to do something about it so I decided to turn them into the Avengers.

Was it a deliberate plan to coincide the series with Infinity War's release?

Yes I did. The movie seemed to have the same theme.

How did you choose your models, the young stars who bring this vivid project to life?

We found a bunch of kids who had been bullied and really analyzed their stories. We wanted to get a diverse group so that anyone seeing the project could relate. We found kids who have been cyber bullied to some who had contemplated suicide.

You got Jaxon Bieber involved as well, how did that happen?

We wanted Jaxon to be the protector of the nine realms against bullying just as Thor is the protector of his nine realms (in the fictional world of MCU). When Jaxon and his Dad Jeremy (Bieber) heard about the project they loved the idea and wanted to help inspire others to be more aware.

This is not the first time - you started with the Justice League kid series. How was the response to your OG superhero project? 

The response to the Justice League kids series was huge. People from all over the globe wrote-in to us, sharing their stories and wanting to get similar photoshoots done. It inspired a lot of people. I was even interviewed by doctors on live TV about the project. They asked about the possible health effects projects like these could have on a child's recovery from diseases.

Did the positive feedback boost interest to conceptualize this Avengers series?

Yes, but only because the Avengers story is so relevant. I make sure that the projects I am a part of, increase awareness amongst the public and in the case of bullying the Avengers seemed like a perfect connection.

It doesn't seem like an easy task, getting kids involved, especially when they have suffered bullying. What were the biggest challenges?

I think the biggest challenge was finding the kids. People, willingly, don't want to share their bullying stories because they might be embarrassed or feel judged. These kids have been amazing in wanting to share their stories to inspire the world.

How did you finally convince the lot?

We found a good group of kids who had been fed up with bullying. The parents were very supportive as well, and in the end, it was an amazing all-star group.

Explain the process of putting together this series, from ideation to final touches.

Once I finished the Justice League Kids series I realized that some of the kids in that series had been bullied as well. I couldn't believe kids would be so cruel and so I knew I wanted to help out in some way. Once the Avengers trailer came out I knew how I could help. I started putting together the shot in my mind as my wife Roxana began the search for the kids. I was prepping the creative side and my wife was doing the production side. We found an amazing costume designer Julie Whiteley, who created all of the costumes and it took her three months to complete all of the costumes.

When the pre-production phase was finished we photographed the kids and then I got to editing. The editing process took about a week or two and then we released the series to the kids on stage in front of thousands of people.

Social media's contribution?

We have been able to reach and inspire people on the other side of the globe who might have never seen the projects.

There's a sense of emotional connection in the series, are you personally involved with any of the causes?

We are not affiliated with any anti-bullying charities or causes at the moment. We are trying to spread awareness with the project and show that our differences are what make us strong.

How do you think your Avengers kids series will help prevent bullying?

I think the series shows that in spite of the differences the kids can come together to help make things better. They are here to represent how its OK to be different and how that shouldn't be made fun of.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if your young Avengers get to meet the stars of Marvel, just like the Justice League kids?

I would love for them to meet the actors who played the superheroes on big screen. I would also love for some of the kids to appear in schools and share their stories with other students.

Also, any plans to feature in a family photo-op again?

We have created some fun family photos of us [Rossi and his entire brood] in a Star Wars movie poster and my daughter was Wonder Woman at one point. I will continue to create fun images of all of us.

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