Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
April 20, 2013

The Watertown Standoff: Images from the Final Day of the Marathon Bombers at Large

Cheering suspect arrest Marathon bombers

The photos from the final chapter of the Boston Marathon bombing raise a lot of questions. What I’m not sure of is whether the will is there to ask, let alone try and answer them. On the one hand, why would anybody have any question about the scenes in Watertown at all? There was a terrorist on the loose, one who had physically and emotionally maimed the city in the midst of one of its most cherished rituals.

From there, though, it gets a lot more complicated, most of the issues having a lot to do with scale. How much was shutting down the city commensurate to the scale of the threat? To what extent does just the use of the word “terrorist” create an equivalence between a Tamerlan Tsarnaev or his younger brother Dzhokhar and an Osama bin Laden? To what extent has 9/11 fostered our own state of war, hyper concern about our security and the trappings of a militarized state?

With all that in mind, the lead image seems indistinguishable from the photos of celebrations that broke out the night Navy Seals snuffed bin Laden. In this case, is there any doubt how the situation in Boston morphed into an attack on, and subsequent victory for America?

SWAT team prosthetic

Regarding the picture above, I wouldn’t assume anything, but the photo did make me think about all those wounded Iraq and Afghanistan vets and how much we’ve all been rendered casualties to some degree.

Residents clap for suspect capture Watertown Residents pensive during Watertown standoff

If one photo captures the conclusion while the other was taken during the standoff, I wonder if the latter group was as relaxed and gratified at the end as the former.

Girls SWAT team Watertown

Bombing suspects Watertown driveway

Unless you’re that gung-ho, many photos on the streets of Waterford seem to raise the question if this looks right — and how we got here. Just say it out loud. SWAT team meets girls and their cell phones. Taking out the dog.

SWAT team vehicle through Watertown

Watertown helicopter

It is troubling to think how easily social space can now give way to military space.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev boxing photo

Lest we forget the perpetrators themselves, so much was this a spectacle, I was fascinated to at least make the acquaintance of Tamerlan Tsarnaev through that set of boxing photos that were everywhere today. In the rear view mirror, the shots made perfect sense framing the older brother as a brute landing a roundhouse.

Journalists bombing suspect Watertown

It is maybe not a fair snapshot but it sure circulated well. I believe this is due to how much it illustrates the Boston Marathon bombing story as media crack. The facial expressions here, as the journalists are forced to take cover, appear too excited, opportunistic and spectator-like to balance against a more dispassionate role from the Fourth Estate.

Girl in window Marthon bombers Watertown

I found this to be the most complex and honest photo of the day. This girl in the pink hearts (alone, a commentary on the loss of innocence) isn’t excited or scared, but troubled. I can’t imagine a more appropriate reaction to events in Boston this week.

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(Photo 1: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters Caption: People wave U.S. flags while cheering as police drive down Arlington street in Watertown, Massachusetts April 19, 2013. The second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was bleeding, seriously injured and being treated at a Massachusetts hospital on Friday after he was found hiding in a boat, state police said. Photo 2: Timothy Clary/Getty Caption: The Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Police Department SWAT team search houses for the second of two suspects wanted in the Boston Marathon bombings takes place April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Massachusetts. Photo 3: Timothy Clary/Getty Caption: Residents applaud after the capture of the second of two suspects wanted in the Boston Marathon bombings April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Massachusetts. Thousands of heavily armed police staged an intense manhunt for a Chechen teenager suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings with his brother, who was killed in a shootout. Photo 4: AFP Caption: Residents await the capture of the second of two suspects wanted in the Boston Marathon bombings April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Massachusetts. Photos 5 & 6: Timothy Clary/Getty Caption: The Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Police Department SWAT team search houses for the second of two suspects wanted in the Boston Marathon bombings takes place April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Massachusetts. Photo 7: Spencer Platt Caption: Members of a police S.W.A.T. team search through a neighborhood in Watertown as they search for 19-year-old bombing suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev on April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Massachusetts. Photo 8: Timothy Clary/Getty Caption: Police Department SWAT team search houses for the second of two suspects wanted in the Boston Marathon bombings takes place April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Massachusetts. Photo 9: Glenn DePriest/Getty Images Caption: Tamerlan Tsamaev fought Lamar Fenner during the 201-pound division boxing match during the 2009 Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions May 4, 2009 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo 10: John Mottern/AFP/Getty Images Caption: Journalist take cover during the manhunt for the second suspect of the Boston Marathon bombing in Watertown, Massachusetts, on April 19, 2013. Photo 11: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters Caption: A girl looks out her window as law enforcement searches for Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, in Watertown, Massachusetts April 19, 2013.)

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