April 15, 2014

One Year Later: Josh Haner’s Pulitzer Winning Boston Marathon Bombing Photos and the "Terror War"

What made Josh Haner’s Pulitzer prize winning photo story of well known Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman so powerful? It’s that the photo story so closely and painfully evoke scenes seared into the American psyche of American soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given the fear of terrorism and the perceived threat to “homeland security,” the trauma that emanates from Haner’s photos of Bauman’s treatment and recovery not only recall so many photos from places like Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, but the photos almost tie the episodes together.

Haner’s photos are filled with echoes to innumerable pictures like these:

Here we see Army Sgt. Matt Krumwiede practice walking at Brooke in August, 2013.

This is Army Sgt. Ed Matayka, a double amputee, also at Brooke, working with a physical therapist in August, 2012. According to the caption, Matayka “was serving as an Amy medic at Baghram, Afghanistan when an IED blew off his legs, severely injuring his spinal cord and damaging his organs.”

And then here, in spirit with Jeff’s photo with his mother above, this photo from the Virginia-Pilot shows veteran Jon Bartlett with with his mother, Esther, in 2004 at home in Norfolk.

Perhaps the most interesting photo in Haner’s series, however, is this one of Mr. Bauman having the sutures removed from the remaining portion of his legs:

With the constant evocation of patriotism and veneration of the flag post 9/11 and throughout the ten years of the Iraq war, the immediate response to the attack in Boston felt like nothing had changed. The manifestation of the flag in Haner’s Marathon bombing series, however, is particularly interesting to consider one year later. If it seemed, following the explosions and then the lockdown of Boston, that the war “was coming home,” today that hardly seems the case. Affirming that ambiguity — Old Glory continuing to make its presence felt outside Bauman’s Boston hospital window, still at half-mast a month after the bombing — is that the flag is literally oblique.

A Marathon Survivor Starts Over – New York Times

(photos 1-3 and 7: Josh Haner/The New York Times. photo  4: Jim Urquhart/Reuters. photo 5: John Moore/Getty Images. photo 6: Vicki Cronis/Virginian-Pilot.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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