The Boston Marathon Bombers Chose the Most Photographed Site as a Stage

Notes from different corners of the world.
April 16 2013 12:29 PM

The Bomb Site Was a Stage

The Boston Marathon finish was constructed for photographers and video crews.

Two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.
The finish of the Boston Marathon was likely the most photographed spot on Earth at that moment

Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Walking past the finish line the day before the Boston Marathon, I couldn't help but note how it is constructed more like a stage than an athletic venue. There's more scaffolding to hold a catwalk for photographers, videographers, and media than there is to actually mark the finish line itself.

On race day, that catwalk and the whole finishing stretch on Boylston Street is packed with photographers, some from various press outlets, but the vast majority from MarathonFoto, a company that sells images to runners as souvenirs. Last year, I ordered photos of myself, running directly in front of the bank of world flags where the first bomb went off. It's difficult to overestimate how many photographers are taking photos, virtually constantly, for the entire time that finishers are crossing the line.

All this seems likely to make the finish of the Boston Marathon the most photographed spot on Earth at that moment. In addition to the press footage and images that we see on the media today, the bombs that went off were likely captured by dozens of other professional photographers, not to mention countless amateurs. Directly opposite the bomb site was a grandstand that had seated VIPs and guests of honor from Newtown.

While everything about the bombers is at this point unknown, it's hard to escape the conclusion that they planned their bombing to be on stage, a spectacle guaranteed to be captured thousands of times. It would be easy to be assured of exactly how the videos and photos would work, as there would be thousands of public images of past years' finish lines and ample time in the days before the race to be among the throngs who make the finish a tourist destination. The bombers weren’t simply choosing a crowded location for the bombing. They were choosing one guaranteed to offer the greatest visual spectacle.

All this means that as the thousands of MarathonFoto images are combed for evidence, we'll consume this spectacle an overwhelming number of times, with images of every split second and every possible angle.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 5:47 PM Tale of Two Fergusons We knew blacks and whites saw Michael Brown’s killing differently. A new poll shows the gulf that divides them is greater than anyone guessed.
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 5:07 PM One Comedy Group Has the Perfect Idea for Ken Burns’ Next Project
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.