BU Student Profiled Deceased Suspect in Photo Essay

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By Natalie Covate
BU News Service

“I don’t have a single American friend,” Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a suspect in the case of the Boston Marathon explosions and the Watertown shootout, told a BU student reporter for a photo story published in 2010. “I don’t understand them.”

Tsarnaev is the subject of what was titled “Will Box for Passport,” a photo essay by Johannes Hirn that ran in the 2010 issue of The Comment, a BU graduate student magazine. The essay was posted to a website called photoshelter.com, but was taken down earlier today. However, it’s available on another web site, sandrarose.com

The photo essay told the story of Tsarnaev, a boxer from Chechnya who at the time was training at the Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts center in Boston, Mass. He was training in the hopes of being selected to represent the United States in the Olympics and become a naturalized American citizen. He told Hirn that, without an independent Chechnyan state, he would rather box for the United States than for Russia.

Tsarnaev’s family reportedly fled Chechnya because of the conflict there. He and his family lived in Kyrgyzstan for a few years before coming to the United States as refugees. He did not smoke or drink and typically wouldn’t remove his shirt in the gym if a woman was present due to his Muslim faith, Tsarnaev said. “God said no alcohol,” he told Kirn.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a gunfire exchange in Watertown, Mass. early Friday morning. His brother , the second suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is still at large.

Kirn, the photographer, graduated from Boston University with a Master’s degree in science journalism in 2010. He entered Boston University’s journalism program with a PhD in physics. While studying there, he took a notable interest in photojournalism.

“Johannes is just driven by impact of visual storytelling,” Peter Smith, senior lecturer in photojournalism at Boston University, said. “Everybody looked up to him in class because his work was innovative.”

Kirn took one of Smith’s photojournalism classes. Smith says he remembers this project but was not very involved in its production.

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