Whately man’s photograph of the Boston Marathon bombing aftermath featured in new documentary

  • Douglas Potoksky has produced a book on the Boston Marathon bombing shrines. This photo was featured in a movie. April 14, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Douglas Potoksky has produced a book on the Boston Marathon bombing shrines. This photo was featured in a movie. April 14, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

For the Gazette
Published: 4/17/2017 10:27:46 AM

WHATELY — A memorial wall of sneakers, the Boston Common filled with American flags, and flower-strewn messages with “Hugs for Boston,” “Freedom Runs in Boston,” and “We will run again” were captured by the camera of Douglas Potoksky in “Remember Boston: The Boston Marathon Bombing Memorials.”

Potoksky’s book was published in 2014 by Green Circle Press in Whately, almost a year after the 2013 Boston Marathon and the bombings that killed three people and injured hundreds. The coffee table book garnered a foreward written by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who described it as “an important tribute to the victims of the Marathon bombings as well as the tremendous outpouring of community support that followed this tragedy.”

Calling running “the ultimate sport of peace and good will,” Bill Rogers, four-time winner of the Boston and New York marathons, said the photographs “show these connections amongst runners and their community, and how the world thirsts for a nonviolent future.”

One of Potoksky’s memorial photos will be featured in a new documentary that is being shown on a limited basis this week. The movie is called “Boston: An American Running Story,” a 2½-hour documentary that will be shown once, at 7:30 p.m., at the Hadley Cinemark on Wednesday, April 19.

The film is about the 150-year history of the Patriots Day Marathon, but the segment with Potoksky’s “Hero” photo is about the tragedy in 2013, with music performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a score by Jeff Beal, who did the soundtrack for “House of Cards.” The photo features the three people who died in the bombing and the police officer who was later shot by the bomb suspects.

A dozen years earlier, Potoksky’s photos of the street memorials at Ground Zero after the 9/11 tragedy were compiled into a book: “American Heart: A Remembrance.” Twenty-eight images he took were selected for the permanent archives at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

“I usually don’t photograph like this,” Potoksky, a Whately resident, said of his memorial photography. Before “American Heart,” Potoksky, who was also a musician before a hand injury, was best known for his photographs of musicians, including Robert Plant, Jerry Garcia, Willie Nelson and Arthur Lee.

His photos of musicians have been published in such music magazines as Acoustic Guitar, Elmore, Mojo and Rolling Stone.

“I never went to school for it,” Potoksky says of his photojournalism skills. “I just shoot if I can feel it. If I can feel the image, I can get the image right — the way I can feel music. I have a whole different approach to photography,” he said.

Potoksky said he went to New York City after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to volunteer in clean-up efforts, but he was turned down. So he walked the streets, photographing the makeshift memorials along the way. “I heard in the village they were putting together an exhibit to raise money for the Children’s Aid Society.” So Potoksky donated some of his photographs, as did 600 to 700 other photographers. “A gallery in Soho hung all the photos on clotheslines,” he said.

Potoksky used to live in Boston, and a week or two after the Marathon bombing, he wanted to go back to pay his respects. His first stop was a Boston fire station on Boylston Street, where he gave them a large print of his memorial of the Engine 54 Firehouse, which lost 15 firefighters during the Sept. 11 attacks. The downtown Boston firefighters encouraged him to photograph the memorials that lined the streets.

“The book magically came together,” he said. “It was almost like a calling.”

Beyond his own photo skills, Potoksky found the memorials beautiful in their own right.

Potoksky says his next photography book “will be about butterflies or something like that,” to get away from the heavy emotions of photographing the heartfelt memorials.

But, as he points out, “there’s nothing in this book that children couldn’t look at. This was meant to honor all the victims. That’s the main purpose.”

To see more of Potoksky’s 9/11 memorial photography, go online to: americanheartproject.com

Copies of “Remember Boston” can be ordered from Potoksky at: dougsimages@aol.com.

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