Get Inked, Become Boston Strong
By Mary Kuchar
“Everyone was affected. We all bled,” said Christopher Padgett, describing both the Boston Marathon bombing and the significance of the name of his recent project, Bled for Boston.
Bled for Boston is a collection of photographs Padgett has taken of Boston-themed tattoos inspired by the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013. Padgett said Bled was originally supposed to be a small gallery of ten to fifteen photographs and chose to feature tattoos because of the personal meanings and stories behind them. However, Bled has far exceeded his expectations. “It has taken on a life of its own,” he said. Padgett has photographed over forty tattoos and still has more to go. The project will be displayed at a gallery showing at the Boston Center for Adult Education on April 15, 2014.
Bled for Boston began when Padgett learned from a friend that Good Mojo Tattoos of Beverly, among other Northeast tattoo shops, offered flash deals of Boston-themed tattoos with prices ranging from $50 to $100. All proceeds were donated to the One Fund, an organization dedicated to assisting the victims and families affected by the bombing.
Padgett, who does not normally photograph people, is more interested in documenting the stories behind the tattoos than the tattoos themselves. He wants to share as many stories as possible. Padgett said one memorable is that of six nurses who volunteered at the finish line to help runners stay hydrated. Instead however, they found themselves mending victims’ wounds. In honor of their hard work, the nurses designed matching tattoos.
Another story Padgett recalled was from a Boston police officer who was a first responder at the bombing. The tattoo, located on the officer’s thigh, displays a police badge with his badge number, accompanied by angel wings and a red B. It includes the phrase “We run toward danger. First responders.” Padgett said the officer’s tattoo is one of his favorites because it is well done and has “layers and layers of meaning.”
The name Bled for Boston has caught the eye of critics who say it is inappropriate for the project. Despite criticism, Padgett named his project in honor of the pain felt not only by Boston Marathon victims but also by Bostonians everywhere. In Padgett’s words, an “internet tough guy” has accused people who get the tattoos of taking the spotlight off the victims. Otherwise, Bled has received support and recognition.
Padgett said he was deeply offended by the bombing and felt to him “like somebody punched your friend.” Padgett said he feels “more at home” in Boston than in his hometown in Virginia. “I don’t know that I would have responded as directly as I did if this would have happened in the town I grew up in,” he said.
Padgett had gotten the outline of the Boston skyline tattooed on his forearm before starting the project. Although he has a Boston-themed tattoo himself, Padgett said, “My eyes have been opened to people who get tattoos more than anything.” He explained that Bled for Boston has helped him to learn things about people that he would never have assumed. He described a mother and daughter whom he photographed and said that he would never have thought of them as “tattoo people.”
Padgett also works as an IT specialist and teaches photography at the BCAE, the Boston Center for Adult Education. The Bled for Boston team is made up of Padgett and his wife, who are assisted by the BCAE public relations team for media coverage. Padgett said he wants to keep his project going for the next few years but would eventually move on to something else. He said that conducting this project has helped him make connections among the “tightly knit” tattoo community, and tattoo shops are referring some of their clients to Padgett to be photographed for Bled.
Although Bled for Boston has grown significantly bigger than expected, Padgett is not letting success get to his head. “I was freaking on TV,” he said about his recent appearance on Fox 25 News. As for his studio? “It’s literally my dining room.”