For children who are fighting cancer, the imagination is much more than a fun tool used to spend boring classes or escape drab winter days – it is sometimes an opportunity to escape a terrifying reality. Photographer Jonathan Diaz, father of four healthy children, believes he can give a contribution to help these children in making this fantasy as close to real as possible.
Sophie has cancer, Down syndrome and heart disease. “She just loves to read books,” said Diaz. “So I thought, well, let’s make your imagination come alive while reading the book. She was so happy when she posed, smiling all the time. “
His new book, “The Real Heroes: The Treasure of the fairy tales today Written by bestselling authors,” is a collection of photographs and stories from renowned authors like Brandon Mull, Shannon Hale, Ally Condie, Jennifer Nielsen.
Ellie had big dreams of becoming a baker. “I wanted the picture to be very fancy,” Diaz said. “Not only wanted to make one baker; I wanted it to be able to do amazing things beyond her wildest dreams. She not only created all those amazing baked treats, but was also able to balance them magically, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Diaz, who is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, says that the inspiration to photograph children with cancer came to his mind after a fun photography session with his children.
Ethan tragically died before he could see his finished picture. But the picture was important to him. “I wanted to be Batman and a doctor,” Diaz said. “His mother said he had just felt such a connection with his own doctors. He knew they were trying to save his life. He had so much sympathy for them, and wanted to save other people’s lives, too. “
“Then I started from those ideas to make a kind of collage of photography about three years ago asking my children to imagine a kind of recreation for the photo of Ethan,” he told TODAY.com.
“After a while, I thought, ‘Why not directly do this project for children with cancer and create a special way so that they can live their own dreams?'”
“Marley is actually better,” Diaz said today. “She had cancer when I was younger, and then went into remission. Her dream was to play football in college, and last year, she received a scholarship to do just that. I wanted to include it to show other kids that some of these people’s dreams come true. “
The project is called “Anything can happen,” and that’s what led to the publication of the “true heroes” book. And while each picture holds a special place in the heart of Diaz, some are a little more precious to him.
Caimbre is from California and, like most other children pictured in these photos, had cancer. But she fought and won. “We loved it, and we also loved the idea that she wanted to be a mermaid. She was very gracious, “Diaz said. “When we went there to take photos, she became a little model posing and lying on the floor.”
“Jordan, who appeared in the photograph ‘Jordan in Wonderland’, died a few weeks after we took the pictures,” he recalled. “She really wanted to be part of the project when she was sent home to be at the hospital. Her mom called us and told us that her idea was to be Alice in Wonderland, and we were finally able to do it before Jordan departed.
Cami’s cancer was thought to be in remission, but the it underwent in relapse after a bone marrow transplant. Her miraculous recovery has inspired Diaz. “There was a man who was in the donor registry and was consistent with it,” the photographer said. “They were able to do the bone marrow transplant that saved her life. She is now cancer free and doing very well. “
“She was very ill and had a lot of pain, and needed three people to stand up,” he continued. “I was just telling her to sit down. I did not have the strength to endure! But she was determined to finish everything. That is the capacity of the recovery. “
“This was the beginning of the session,” Diaz said about Jordan, pictured in the “Wonderland”. “This was before I wanted to stand up. I remember kneeling next to him said, ‘Listen, I know you’re in your living room and no lights and cameras. But if you can imagine me we’re in the Wonderland. It was one of those moments in which I felt she really traveled through her fantasy. “Therefore, that is what made these pictures as epic? “Of course, the kids had a lot of fun during the sessions. That is one aspect, “said Diaz. “But the real reason is that during the shooting, which made them forget about their difficulties and could fulfill their dream.
Breeann was a competitive dancer, and was diagnosed with bone cancer when she was a little older than some of the other children in the photo here. After some procedures, she was told that she would never be able to run or dance again, and it would take two years for her to learn to walk. “Well, she learned to walk within a year,” Diaz said. “And that’s pretty amazing. I really wanted to become a dancer again. And if we could do it through art, you know, maybe one day could happen in real life. “
“I take a lot of elements – for example, pictures of fire, water, and a building, and the initial pictures of the children – and combine it all together in Photoshop.”
He approaches each image the way one might a painting of fine arts, spending approximately 15-20 hours photo. It is a long time, and he is not getting paid for anything. But he says that every time he comes to present a child with photography, the feeling is gratifying.
Jake wanted to be a biker in Motocross. “He was so funny,” Diaz said. “These things bring you closer to the people who you would never get to know otherwise.”
“I think the only thing I tend to do with this book and the project is to raise as much awareness as possible,” he told TODAY. “I really see it as an opportunity to give children hope for a better future. That’s my real goal. “
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