Salem photographer Chris Padgett amid his photographs at the Bled for Boston Exhibit at the BCAE. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO
People are often at a loss for words after witnessing tragic events. Perhaps that's why, following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, hundreds of people expressed themselves in ink, etching onto their skin what was inside their hearts.
Salem photographer Chris Padgett has spent the last year documenting the personal stories of more than 75 people who got tattoos to commemorate the fatal terror attack.
"It snowballed quickly," said Padgett, who was inked with a line drawing of the Boston skyline shortly after the bombings.
Following the terror attack, many tattoo shops in New England began offering Boston-themed tattoos, donating their profits to The One Fund Boston.
Though Padgett was not present at last year’s marathon, he still felt compelled to memorialize the event, so he headed to Good Mojo Tattoos in Beverly, where his friend Mulysa Mayhem is a tattoo artist.
“As I was waiting I saw a lot of people coming through for Marathon tattoos, and I thought it’d be cool to take pictures and get their stories,” he said.
And that he did. It wasn’t long before the BCAE got wind of the project.
One of the tattoos featured in Bled for Boston. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO
Padgett said he was surprised at the eclectic selection of people opting to get inked.
“It's everybody, that’s what I love about it. I thought I'd only get runners and first responders - I got them - but I also got bystanders and people who weren't even there. People who just love Boston; college professors, grandmothers, people who grew up here,” said Padgett, who unveiled the exhibit on April 3 at a gallery opening attended by many of his subjects.
Among those featured was MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard “Dic” Donohue, who was nearly killed during a shoot out with the bombing suspects days after the attack.
Donohue’s tattoo is among those featured – a grim reaper with “April 15, 2013” written beneath it.
"When he got it done, they really didn’t tell anyone about it. Only a selection of family and friends," Padgett said, adding that the April 3 gallery opening would be the tattoo's grand unveiling.
"It’s pretty poignant. He was a late edition to this whole thing," said Padgett.
The exhibition fits nicely into the center’s main mission, according to BCAE Executive Director Susie Brown.
“We’re always looking to try to provide educational opportunities that enhance a sense of community. In presenting this exhibit, we’re hoping to not only tell stories of so many of those affected, but to educate and expand on how these people have used this medium as a form of self expression,” said Brown.
“We wish this had never happened and wed never had to commemorate this, but we feel responsible to the city as an educational institution to provide an outlet for people to gather, share stories and learn more. Our hope is that we will help people express themselves further.”
The exhibition will run throughout the month of April at the BCAE.
Padgett also put together a photography book featuring the tattoo tributes. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds will be donated to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. The books run $45 for hardcover, and $30 for softcover.