By day, Bemidji high school senior Jaxon Anderson is a lot like Peter Parker, an awkward coming-of-age teen who wants to be everyone’s hero. When he puts on the mask, however, Anderson becomes the Amazing Spider-Man.
And when you’re Spider-Man, the traditional senior photo shoot just isn’t going to cut it.
Anderson swapped the cheesy backgrounds and subpar lighting for a dramatic movie set-style photo shoot as Spider-Man in downtown Bemidji. He perched atop building ledges as the sun set, swung from light poles, and even nabbed an upside-down kiss from a Mary Jane look-alike.
“I was struggling with what to do for senior photos and knew this would make me stand out and help me be myself,” Anderson said. “I just love superheroes. I guess I’m just really geeky in that way.”
Spidey’s pics are just the latest in a trend that some people are calling extreme senior portraits. These highly-produced photo sessions include destination portrait sessions, make-up teams and more.
Anderson came up with the idea, but Bemidji photographer Misty Malterud brought it to life. Malterud owns Misty Moments Photography, which specializes in uber-original senior portraits that capture teens’ personalities.
“My focus is to capture who they are as individuals and where they are at this time in their lives,” Malterud said. “With social media, these kids feel like they get drowned out. They just want to be seen and heard for who they are.”
Once Anderson got the go-ahead from his parents and ordered a new $200 Spidey suit, he called in for reinforcements — Winter Soldier and Mary Jane — and descended on downtown Bemidji.
With safety measures in place (including dad Eric Anderson hoisting Spider-Man from the roof with a tow rope), Anderson recreated famous Spider-Man scenes. He scaled glass walls, shot webs while air borne in an alley and stretched out on a grain bin at a local mill where his grandfather has worked for nearly 40 years.
While watching over the town on top of the local 209 Bar, a pajama-clad girl peeked out of a nearby apartment window, her eyes big as saucers.
When Malterud shared a selection of the photos on the World Wide Web, people couldn’t believe their eyes either.
“These are the best senior pictures I have ever seen,” one person wrote on Facebook.
“I love that you’re letting kids be themselves and express who they are instead of just sitting in the studio with a denim backdrop,” wrote another.
Malterud emphasized that the photos are 100-percent real without any effects added in Photoshop.
“Hanging upside down took a lot of physical strength and that was all Jaxon’s doing,” Malterud said.
“He looked like Spider-Man when he moved, he sounded like him. It was like watching a movie.”
Like most kids, Anderson had a closet full of superhero costumes, but Spider-Man is the one that stuck.
“Spider-Man just fits my style,” he said. “I’m very similar to him even without the costume. He’s a high school student who goes through what everyone goes through juggling school work, a job, but he still has a positive outlook.”
It wasn’t until Anderson found his passion for show choir and theater that he came out of his shell, said his mom, Kristen Anderson.
“He never went out with friends and now he’s getting lead roles in the school musicals,” she said. “I am so incredibly proud of him that he just owns who he is.”
Nobody was really surprised to see Anderson as Spider-Man in his senior photos. The 17-year-old is known for his love of the superhero at his high school. Anderson becomes Spider-Man a few times a year at special school functions and pep rallies.
“I feel like a different person when I wear the suit,” he said. “When I walk through the halls as Spider-Man, people are amazed and confused. They seem to like having a superhero at school with them.”