Why The New Photos Of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Might Do More Harm Than Good

A police photographer released shots of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s capture and arrest in protest at Rolling Stone‘s cover picture of the accused Boston bomber terrorist. He has since been suspended.

Why The New Photos Of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Might Do More Harm Than Good

In response to Rolling Stone magazine’s controversial cover featuring alleged Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Sgt. Sean Murphy, a tactical photographer with the Massachusetts State Police, released photos of Tsarnaev’s capture, along with a statement saying “what Rolling Stone did was wrong. This guy is evil. This is the real Boston bomber. Not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.”


Murphy has since been suspended, pending a full investigation. Apart from the legal implications of how the photographs might prejudice a fair trial, releasing the images could have the opposite effect of what Sgt. Murphy wanted.

If you thought that the Jim Morrison-esque photo of the teenager on the cover of Rolling Stone made him look iconic, it pales in comparison to these new photos, in which Tsarnaev is slumped on the pristine white, shroud-like cover of the boat he’d been hiding in.

His chest is bare, he looks exhausted, and on his forehead is the glowing red light of a sniper’s bead. He looks as though he’s a hero dying for a cause. He looks like someone a teenage girl could believe in. (Some already do.) The photo reminds one of the picture of a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan that won Tim Hetherington the Press Photo of the Year in 2007.

How do you think the new photos have transformed Tsarnaev’s image? Do they fulfill the the photographer’s goals of reminding us that Tsarnaev is not a celebrity? Use our comments box to tell us your thoughts.

[Top image: Flickr user Rebecca Hildreth]

[Middle image: Boston Magazine]

[Bottom image: Flickr user daweiding]

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.