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Adam Coppola is a professional photographer who launched the COVID Superhero project, a social media campaign that puts the focus on health care professionals who work to their human capacity to treat and save COVID-19 patients, and essential workers who risk their safety to provide vital services to the community. (Photo courtesy of Adam Coppola)
Paige Coppola models as a special kind of superhero in the COVID Superheroes series photographed by her father Adam Coppola and organized by her mom Christy Coppola. (Photo by Coppola Photography)
What young child hasn’t dreamt of saving the world as Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman?
Such visions were captured by Adam Coppola, a professional photographer, who snapped pictures of his daughters Alexa, 6, and Paige, 4, dressed as superhero figures. But he gives the pictures a unique rendering, because nowadays, “superheroes” do exist in our midst fighting an invisible enemy.
Much like heroic fictional characters, health care professionals work to their human capacity to treat and save COVID-19 patients, and essential workers risk their safety to provide vital services to the community.
Called COVID Superhero, the social media campaign created by Adam and his wife, Christy, involves depicting one of their daughters, dressed as a health care professional with a face mask for protection from the coronavirus, holding a small chalkboard with the words “I wanna be a superhero, too.” The words on the chalkboard seem to come true in a second picture showing the child as the same health care worker gazing at a mirror and seeing a reflection of herself dressed in superhero garb.
The pattern is repeated in succeeding photos showing either one of his daughters dressed as an essential worker—a supermarket employee, a police officer, a U.S. army soldier, and a firefighter—holding the same chalkboard and then seeing herself transformed in the mirror as a superhero figure.
“We wanted to show that the essential workers are the everyday superhero of this pandemic. The imagination of kids is a beautiful thing and if we can take an image that shows that kids see themselves as heroes when pretending to be the everyday nurse, doctor, supermarket worker, national guard member, police officer, firefighter, then we are showing the world that kids look up to their heroic efforts of helping the world through this crazy challenging time,” Adam says.
“Simply put, we just want to say thanks, we appreciate you, and you are important to us,” he adds.
With the help of family members and another photographer who designed the chalkboard, the project was completed in three weeks, from concept creation and costume acquisition to campaign release. The photo shoot itself took two days in his studio, a renovated barn in his backyard in Killingworth.
The pictures can be viewed on Adam’s website, coppolaphotography.com. The project caught the attention of a local television station, which showcased the campaign and featured Adam and his family on a newscast. It was also used by the nonprofit organization, Americares, as part of a fundraising campaign for International Nurses Day, May 12.
“We hope this campaign will raise awareness to the good work that they are doing and, in turn, support their mission,” Adam says.
The campaign itself spread not only on social media but also among Adam’s friends and relatives.
“My brother, Chris, is a doctor; my cousin, Kenneth Mirando, is a Stop & Shop manager; and several of Christy’s cousins are nurses and doctors. One of Christy’s nurse cousins messaged us that it brought tears to her eyes, and another nurse cousin shared it with her whole nurse team. Other friends and family decided to tag the images with their ‘#covidsuperhero’ so that they could spread gratitude and appreciation,” Adam explains.
Of course, for Adam and Christy, the impact to them was most meaningful in the reaction of their two daughters who played the part of the superheroes for the two full days of photo sessions.
“The best part of this whole project has been the sparked gratitude and appreciation that we have seen in our girls. They understand how important the roles are of the health care heroes and essential workers, and they appreciate them,” Adam says.
A Love of Photography
The campaign would not have come to fruition at all if Adam had not decided on photography as a career, a path he says he was encouraged to pursue, first by his parents and later, by his wife.
He completed his B.A. in psychology from Providence College and his M.S. in school psychology from Southern Connecticut State University.
He acknowledges with humor the divergence between his education and professional experience.
Referring to his master’s degree, he admits, “I haven’t used it a day in my life. Or, I use it every day of my life, depending upon how you look at it.”
“I started my photography business after completing my graduate degree to see if I could make a career out of my passion for creating imagery,” he adds.
He began his professional career as a photojournalist at The Source where he worked for close to two years. He then transitioned to shooting events and weddings, and finally found his true passion in photography with commercial and advertising work.
“It took some outside suggestion from Christy before I saw it as a career path and then I jumped into the deep end and pursued it fervently. I don’t think I’ve ever lost that passion for creating imagery. It has shifted from storytelling about my travels to photojournalism, and now, to creating powerful, emotion-evoking imagery,” he admits.
At Coppola Photography, Adam is director and photographer, while Christy works as the studio manager and producer.
“I tend to create the vision and she connects all of the dots to make it happen,” Adam says.
Adam also merges his other passions with his love of photography. A cycling enthusiast, he has several photos in his portfolio showing bicyclists on urban settings or countryside trails.
He recalls an adventure he took with Christy in 2011. They left their jobs, sold their belongings, and traveled all 50 states by bicycle with their camping gear, food, and camera equipment in tow. They pedaled more than 12,500 miles to raise money for two charities, World Bicycle Relief and Achilles International.
“It was an unbelievable adventure that we will cherish forever,” Adam recalls. “We learned so much about ourselves, our relationship, and our country. Out of this project we worked for a bike advocacy organization, People for Bikes, traveling the country, again, and advocating for better, safer, bike infrastructure.”
Indeed, while his client list includes companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, BodyArmor Super Drink, and Cannondale Bicycling Corporation, Adam also finds satisfaction lending his photography skills to nonprofit organizations.
“Working for nonprofit organizations and giving back to charities has always been an important part of our work and efforts. We both have been very fortunate in life, and ‘giving back’ or ‘giving forward’ has always been an important part of our lives,” he says.
Which is perhaps why he put in as much passion taking pictures of his daughters as heroic health care and essential workers as he does for his commercial clients.
“I think the final lesson that I have learned and hope to continue to practice is to appreciate the work of others and appreciate the good fortunes that are in my life. This pandemic has been an emotional challenge of ups and downs, but the more I allow gratitude and appreciation to enter my life, the happier I am,” he says.
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