It’s all over the news, one of the terrorists’s already dead and chances are that by the time you read these lines his fugitive brother identified as 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has already met his maker as well — or is at least in custody. But there’s a part of the story that might be of special interest to photographers — apart from the fact that social media, accidental photographers and CCTV might have helped identify the terrorists in the first place (The Onion referred to it as the “Internet Comes Up With 8.5 Million Leads on Potential Boston Bombing Suspect”). But what about the earlier dreams of saved-refugee-turned-killed-bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev?
A photographer named Johannes Hirn has posted an undated photo essay titled “Will Box for Passport” on Tamerlan Tsarnaev on PhotoShelter, a site that helps photographers display, distribute and sell their work online. It’s a photo essay on a good American kid living the American dream:
Quoting from the New York Times:
“Will Box For Passport,” an undated photo essay posted online by a photographer named Johannes Hirn, appears to offer clues about the life of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspect in Monday’s Boston Marathon attack who was killed after a police chase early Friday.
The 15 photographs, showing the refugee (who settled in the U.S. in 2003 after requesting asylum) in a boxing ring at the Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts center in Boston can be viewed as a slide show.
According to the photo captions, Mr. Tsarnaev was a refugee from Chechnya, who had fled the conflict there with his family in the early 1990s, first for Kazakhstan and then the United States. Even though he had been living in the U.S. for five years by the time the images of him in the gym were taken, and he said that he hoped to represent is new country in the Olympics, he told the photographer: “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.”
And the story goes on:
The essay showed him training for a Golden Gloves heavyweight boxing competition in Salt Lake City, which hosted the tournament in 2009. He told the photographer that he hoped to do well enough to be selected for the United States Olympic team and get an American passport. One caption, for a photograph showing him in front of an American flag in the gym, read: “Unless his native Chechnya becomes independent, Tamerlan says, he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia.”
The subject also described himself as a “very religious,” if newly devout Muslim at the time: “Tamerlan says he doesn’t smoke or drink anymore. ‘God said no alcohol.’ A Muslim, he says, ‘There are no values anymore,’ and worries that ‘people can’t control themselves.’”
Foreign Policy adds:
At the time the photos were taken, Tamerlan’s life did not seem all bad: Hirn writes that he was competing as a boxer, enrolled in college and had a half-Portuguese, half-Italian girlfriend who converted to Islam for him. “She’s beautiful, man!” he said.
At some point, though, it all went wrong. In 2009, Tamerlan was arrested for domestic assault and battery after assaulting his girlfriend. The reasons for his descent into terrorism after that may never be fully known.
Well behind everyone there is a story whereas life once again is stranger than fiction. Turning from an aspiring U.S. citizen — as the photo essay suggests — into the enemy of this state, that in itself is another one of those stories only life can write.
BTW, it’s never too late to join PhotoShelter!!