If Minnesota kids think they have a superpower, it's often the ability to endure harsh cold. Put on a cap! Wear your mittens! But they walk out the door to the bus, smiling to themselves: If only you knew my secret identity. The Gloveless Wonder!
Or perhaps they have the ability to see through parental statements, or hear Dutch Elm beetles a mile away. Whatever their skills, they'll soon have a glorious photographic proof of their superhero status -- thanks to Mike Levad.
He's been a museum exhibit coordinator for most of his career and does work for the Minneapolis parks as a neighborhood naturalist, teaching kids about snow and trees and such. Like everyone else these days with a cellphone and an Instagram account, he's a photographer, but unlike the rest, he's serious. He had to be.
"I always liked photography, and when my wife was pregnant it was a good excuse to buy a good camera. I thought, 'I really, really like this. I'm going to change my career and be a professional.' I had a five-year plan to wean myself off my day job. But at the end of year one I got laid off."
That does tend to concentrate the mind. In between lessons at the park, he polished his skills.
"I'd go down to Bryant and Lake and hang a white background and ask random people if I could take their picture. About 80 percent said yes." It encouraged his love of shooting people -- in the nice way that never makes the paper -- and that led to the Homemade Heroes project.
"I've been an educator my whole career and always liked kids. I remembered my little brother and his friends used to dress up as superheroes, and I thought it would be cool to have the kid in his towel cape and colander helmet and swim goggles, photographed with really high-end photographic style."
A year-and-a-half after he got the idea, he's ready to start shooting in March.
"We'll talk about what a hero is, what they do. Why do we have them? They'll brainstorm their own superheroes -- not Batman or Superman, but their ideas."
It's enough to make you wonder what a Minnesota superhero would be like.
"He'd definitely carry a hockey stick. He'd have a utility belt with a massive can of Off. Maybe a fish for a sidekick. That's a good question for the kids."
They probably won't come up with one that disables enemies with a sluice of super-snoose juice, though.
If you're interested, contact Levad through his website, www.twinbirchstudios.com.