Book Review: “Remember Boston”

By TINKY WEISBLAT

“Remember Boston”; photographs by Douglas Potoksky, text by Gail Cleare (Green Circle Press, 96 pages, $39.95)

For most of my life, I have had trouble seeing the point of the memorial tributes that seem to spring up at the sites of tragedies: flowers, signs, teddy bears, and the like. After reading “Remember Boston,” however, I am beginning to comprehend the worth of these tributes.

Subtitled “The Boston Marathon Bombing Memorials,” the book preserves images of many of the offerings that appeared spontaneously in Boston as a response to the bombings that shook the city and the world in April 2013 on the day of the Boston Marathon.

Photographer Douglas Potoksky of Whately had previously taken photographs of street memorials in New York City after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Many of his images of those days are now housed in the Smithsonian.

Potoksky spent many years in Boston working as a chef, musician and photographer. In May 2013, he turned his lens on his former home city, determined to document the bombing memorials before they disintegrated or were moved to the Boston Archives.

Gail Cleare of Whately’s Green Circle Press has put the resultant images together into a striking book.

The vibrant colors of Potoksky’s photographs embody the phrase that crops up again and again in the book, “Boston Strong.” These still images convey a lot of movement.

A man in casual clothes who adds flowers to a memorial is clearly a runner; his stance is athletic and fluid. An angel in the midst of another memorial seems to blow its horn defiantly.

Many of the memorials are clearly designed specifically for this tragedy. Piles of running shoes and baseball caps remind the reader that the Marathon is, above all, an athletic event.

Potoksky and Cleare often place a busy image on one page and then highlight a close-up from that image — or a phrase on a sign from the image — on the next.

The memorial phrases include words of hope, support and pride; expressions of sympathy from around the nation and around the world; and information about victims of the bombings, particularly about the four individuals who were killed.

Clearly, people put a lot of thought into these memorials. I was particularly touched by the impromptu pieces of art inspired by the bombings.

These include a collage of images and phrases that emphasize the city’s durability; a lovely dove improbably constructed from aluminum foil, a plastic bottle and paper napkins; paper flowers; and a tree-trunk cozy crocheted with the expression “World Boston.”

Taken as a whole, these images and the tasteful text that accompanies them document the outpouring of support in, and for, Boston in 2013. In doing so, they remind readers that bombs and bullets are no match for the human heart.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.

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