A team of artists created modern fairy tales based on the dreams of kids with cancer

Jonathan Diaz had a simple idea: photograph children acting out their dreams. But his subjects are no ordinary kids — they’re all cancer patients, too.

Diaz takes snapshots of the children and photoshops them into fantastical settings. The project, called Anything Can Be, has now been turned into an anthology of modern fairy tales called “True Heroes.” Teaming up with several authors, the book takes each child’s dream and turns it into a mini story. 

Scroll through to see the inspirational tributes to these children and their wildest dreams. 


Diaz travelled to Candlestick Park for this football-themed image of a boy named Tristan.

Jonathan Diaz/Anything Can Be

'I needed a background image for Tristan the football player,' Diaz said in a press release. 'I wish we had the funds at the time to take him there and shoot on location. He is a huge 49ers fan and it was really cool to visit that famed stadium right before they tore it down.'

For Jordan's 'Wonderland' photoshoot, Diaz brought a real bunny to her house.

Jonathan Diaz/Anything Can Be

On his blog, Diaz describes the day he photographed Jordan.

'Despite the pain that racked her body, Jordan insisted on standing up for her photo shoot. It took three people to hold her steady. It took her a half hour to get dressed. But she insisted on standing up. About 2 weeks after this image was taken, Jordan passed away…'

Diaz posted video of Jordan's mother earlier this year. Jordan's mother describes recieving the photo from Diaz: 'I burst into tears. It didn't look like she was in pain or suffering. It looks like she was relaxed and happy and joyful and at peace.'

Cami dreamed of being a forest fairy.

Jonathan Diaz/Anything Can Be

'Easily the best reaction that we actually caught on camera was Cami,' Diaz said.

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Cami squeaked with happiness when her mum showed her the photoshopped version of her fairy dreams.

In this behind the scenes video, you can see Diaz helping Ellie the Baker pose with a cake.


This is the final product.

Jonathan Diaz/Anything Can Be

Diaz puts a lot of thought into the photoshoot experience for each child. 'I love to hear about how much the kids enjoy the photoshoots. We try and make each one unique and special.'

Eli's dream was to be a BMX stunt rider.

Jonathan Diaz/Anything Can Be

According to Diaz's blog, a company called Hyland Cyclery donated the bike and gear for the shoot.

'Eli was invited to attend an event in Idaho called Ramp Riot,' Diaz said. 'That was pretty amazing because the professional BMX riders that put on the event officially made Eli into a professional BMX rider. Eli even had the chance to sign autographs and was treated like an all-star pro BMX Athlete!'

Diaz took lots of behind-the-scene shots of Eli during his BMX experience.

Jonathan Diaz

You can watch footage of Eli's big day here.

'One of my most memorable posing situations was with Rae the Princess,' the photographer said.

Jonathan Diaz/Anything Can Be

In a press release, Diaz described the day of shooting with Rae.

'She didn't want to leave her mum's side. We finally had her mum hide and we were able to get Rae to hang out with us without her mum. I wanted her to be feeding her unicorn an apple in the final image. So we put (my assistant) and my wife into the stable to pretend to be horses. Then we had Rae feed them the apples. She thought that was pretty funny!'

JP plays basketball along with the pros in Utah.

Jonathan Diaz

JP's dream was to play professional basketball for local team the Utah Jazz. Thanks to Anything Can Be, the sports organisation agreed to let JP come on court as a sub in one of their games.

A video of JP's dunk went viral -- it now has over 5 million views.

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You can watch the whole scene here. Even the sportscasters got into the role play!

This magical mermaid shot of young Caimbre is vibrant and full of life.

Jonathan Diaz/Anything Can Be

In a blog post, Diaz explains how they used blow-dryers to get Caimbre's hair just right.

'True Heroes' was released on Sept. 8, just in time for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Jonathan Diaz/Anything Can Be

As Diaz explains on his website:

A lot of people are going to share statistics about pediatric cancer this month. I will probably share a few of those things as well. They are important, they raise awareness, they help fuel funding...But statistics don't tell the whole story. They don't shed light on the human side of the fight. My hope is that this image and others like it can help you dig deeper and find the courage behind the numbers. Let those feelings stir something in you, let that fester for a bit and realise that this cause is important and that you can do something about it.

The 'True Heroes' book is a tribute to the children who have participated in the Anything Can Be project, as well as a message of hope for those currently battling cancer and disease.

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