The Real Face of Terror: Behind the Scenes Photos of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Manhunt

19 July 2013PhotographyReading

John Wolfson writing on the Boston Daily blog:

The Rolling Stone cover featuring the suspected Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has, of course, set off a firestorm of controversy across the country. Critics believe that the cover glamorizes Tsarnaev, depicting him as a kind of rock ‘n roll outlaw rather than a terrorist who has been charged with killing four people and seriously wounding hundreds of others.

Sgt. Sean Murphy, a tactical photographer with the Massachusetts State Police who has photographed the funerals of many officers killed in the line of duty, is furious with the magazine. Murphy, who also acts a liaison to the families of fallen officers, is so angered by the cover—which he says is both dangerous and insulting to the victims of the bombings—that he feels the need to counter the message that it conveys.

Whether or not you agree with Sgt. Murphy’s opinion of the Rolling Stone cover, these photographs are stunning. The comments section of the blog already has over 2,000 replies. I particularly like this one by Aaron Kraus:

If your objection is that the cover photo glamorizes Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and presents him as an enticing role model to young readers because of his looks then you’re rightly concerned about something that has nothing to do with Rolling Stone.

If your objection is that the cover photo humanizes Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and presents him as a multi-demensional — even sympathetic — figure, well you have just confronted one of humanity’s starkest truths: that we are all humans, endowed with a tremendous capacity for both evil and empathy. Again, your concern has nothing to do with Rolling Stone.

If your objection is that the cover photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev disrespects the victims of his alleged crimes because it focuses on the criminal rather than the crimes then you’re arguing for such a narrow view of journalism and journalistic priorities that the end product would probably do little to educate, enlighten, and engage readers.

If your objection is that Rolling Stone’s intention is to drive sales with sensational cover photos, well, yeah.

Then again, see the photos above, linked online, to drive traffic.