Boy with a Rare Brain Disorder lives dream to be an NBA Basketball Star

Joshua was born with a Vein of Galen Malformation.  He has a malformation in the blood vessels of his brain that steals blood from the rest of the brain.

He has had 6 strokes, left weakness, epilepsy, intellectual disabilities.  He is the eldest surviving child with his condition in Australia.  Joshua’s condition is now considered progressive as he began deteriorating in 2012.

When Mette, Joshua’s mum, shared his story and Joshua’s dreams to be a basketball star, I knew immediately that we could help Josh live out that dream in picture form.

Joshua playing basketball with his dog

Joshua joined us at the first ever heART Project workshop in Melbourne in April. The plan for Joshua’s image was straightforward enough; give Joshua the ability to jump and dunk, and teach his helper dog Jess, how to fly through the air like a super hero dog.

View Joshua’s Behind the Scenes Video here

Knowing the restrictions Josh faced with his movement, I needed to plan carefully how we would achieve all of the captures that would come together to make it look like Joshua was dunking like Michael Jordan. With the help of the other Photographers, there to learn how to bring dreams to life, we worked through each individual limb pose with Josh. Due to Joshua’s condition, he struggled with some of the movements on his left side, so in order to capture his arms at the right angle, we switched him over to the opposite side and I flipped the final shot in Photoshop.

Planning how to achieve the end goal with these heART Project images is a big part of establishing success. Ensuring that the subject is at ease and comfortable is so important. In order to make this an experience to remember, we undertook the photo session at the local basketball court, opposite Jacob’s Estate where we ran the workshop. Cardinia Primary School kindly allowed us to utalise their facilities to make this a special experience for Joshua. He even got to play ball while he waited for his photo shoot.

Brian BirdI originally signed up the The Heart Project as part of the follow up to the Story Art workshop but soon discovered it was so much more. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn some advanced composite techniques, but I also had the opportunity to meet these remarkable families. The Heart Project also helped me to realise how simple it is to make such a difference in someone’s lives doing something you love…..this is truly one of those experiences that changes your life. I feel privileged to have met these remarkable families and to have had the opportunity to participate in this wonderful and rewarding project…thank you so much to Karen and the very generous folks at The Sebastian foundation. I am proud to be part of this project!

Brian Bird

Following Joshua’s photo session, we went out to the oval area to capture photographs of Jess, the super dog, jumping for the ball. A selection of these photographs were used to create the final image of Jess jumping up to block the dunk.

Jess the Super Dog playing Basketball BTS

The background of Joshua’s image was created from 3 photographs, the sky (taken at Magenetic Island in Queensland), Melbourne City, taken as we crossed the Westgate Bridge, and the basketball court. The court was actually Cardinia Primary, captured several days before when Stuart (my husband) and I went to scout out the location and map out Joshua’s project.

Following Joshua’s photo session, the group had the pleasure of witnessing his reaction to the news from The Sebastian Foundation about his gift. Joshua was given special tickets to a Melbourne United NBL basketball game (corporate box), and even now is still talking about that gift and what it means to him.

Yesterday, I presented Joshua and Mette with his Story Art portrait. The response of joy and excitement has left me smiling from ear to ear. I feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to create these special images for families that go through so much. Seeing their reaction, knowing how much these images mean to them, makes it all worthwhile.

I want to encourage those of you who would like to get behind The heART Project to head over to the offical website and register your interest.

If you’d like to find out more about an upcoming heART Project workshop (where you can learn how to create these photoshop composites and make a difference in lives), please visit:

Our other heART Projects 

Visit The Sebastian Foundation

This project was made possible due to the contributions of many partners including:

Shot by Peter John (Behind the Scenes Cinematography – Documentary coming soon)

Triple Scoop Music

EIZO Australia

Wacom Australia

Kayell Australia


Canson Infinity

Better Photography Magazine 

Going Gourmet (Catering)

Jacob’s Estate (Workshop Venue)

Art Defined (Framing)

Suzanne, Aimee and Daniel for helping with The Reveal


Equipment used:

Canon 5Diii

Canon 24 – 70mm 2.8 and 16 -35mm 2.8

Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

Tethering cables and stands from Tether Tools

Lighting from ProTog (Jinbei HD600’s and modifiers)

Westcott Green Screen from Kayell Australia

EIZO monitors from EIZO Australia, distributed by Kayell Australia

Wacom Cintiqs and Intuos Pros

Find out more about The heART Project and get involved –

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