The People in Front of the Lens: Carlos Arredondo

As told to Meghan Ahearn

© Charles Krupa/AP Photo
Carlos Arredondo became known as "the hero in the cowboy hat" after Charles Krupa of AP photographed him helping Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman.

On April 15, 2013, two bombs detonated near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. What emerged in the coming days was not only a manhunt for the suspects, but an outpouring of support for those spectators and runners who risked their lives to help the injured. One of those people was Carlos Arredondo, who became known as “the hero in the cowboy hat” after Charles Krupa of the Associated Press photographed him pinching the artery of a bombing victim to prevent blood loss. But it wasn’t the first time Arredondo had been the subject of an emotional photo. In 2006, documentary photographer Eugene Richards began photographing Arredondo for his “War Is Personal” project. Arredondo had become a peace activist after his son Alex, a United States Marine Corps member, was killed in Iraq. Richards also photographed Arredondo at the wake for his other son Brian, who took his own life in December 2011. 

After the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon I didn’t notice any photographers at all. I was focused on the injured man, who I now know is Jeff Bauman.

My wife showed me [the photo by Charles Krupa] on the computer after getting home around 10 PM Monday night. I felt concern after seeing the photo: What happened to the young man? I helped him into the ambulance but couldn’t remember his name and didn’t know where he went.

I don’t know how I feel [about the photo]. It could have been me. The bomb could have been where I was standing.

People recognize me all the time. Whether I wear a cowboy hat or not. We kept a digital copy of Charlie’s picture from the news.

Charles Arredondo Eugene Richards
From the series "War Is Personal." © Eugene Richards

Eugene and I preplanned our time together. We met a few years after Alex died and then we called him right after my son Brian died. The emotions with Eugene were grief and sorrow. The emotions at the Marathon bombings were: sense of emergency, shock, panic, overwhelmed, needed to help.

[When Eugene photographed me] I didn’t notice the camera was there—the whole time. After Alex died, Gene and I just talked. I didn’t notice the camera in his hand. I cried. He listened. I didn’t notice him taking pictures. After Brian died, he joined me when I first saw Brian lying in his casket. I was focused on understanding that this was my beautiful son lying dead. I couldn’t accept it. I cried. I touched Brian. I was too full of emotions and grief and forgot about Gene.

I have Gene’s book [War Is Personal] and digital copies of the pictures. Sometimes it’s still difficult to look at those pictures.

Carlos Arredondo
A current photo of Arredondo. © Melida Arredondo

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