Christopher Cardoza: An Amputee’s Boston Marathon Prep

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Images by Christopher Cardoza. Used with permission

Editor’s Note: Muji is not running. We were very mistaken and apologize for the error.

Two years ago, the Boston Bombing ravaged many people and brought out horrific images of destruction on our own home turf. Participants suffered severe injuries with some losing limbs, which rendered them unable to run.

However, one runner by the name of Muji Karim had already lost limbs to a terrible accident years previous. Muji made it his goal to help others in similar situations.

Photographer Christopher Cardoza has been working with Muji on a special behind the scenes campaign. Christopher is a photographer and filmmaker based in Boston, MA specializing in commercial and documentary work in the sports world. He has shot and produced stories about Cy Young award winning pitchers, power-lifting super humans, outrageously flexible yogis, and basketball players in Rwanda- to name a few.

But this one is truly touching with the anniversary of the bombing coming up on April 15th.

Phoblographer: How did you first get into photography?

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Doza: I first got started in photography while working for Reebok at their world headquarters outside of Boston, MA. I was a temp in the video production department for a little over a year and was given access to a closet full of video/photography equipment and athletes everywhere. At the beginning I was just shooting videos with Canon DSLRs but in my down time I started experimenting with photography.

I would set my favorite photos as the background of my computer, usually of Reebok shoes or crossfit movements, and they started to get noticed by people walking by. Eventually the head of social media at the time took notice and used them as cover photos for Reebok’s social sites. After that, I was hooked.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about what turned you onto documentary work.

Doza: I have always been obsessed with documentary films which then progressed into photography. The two now work hand in hand so well. Often times, I’m doing both, shooting video and snapping off some stills with my subjects. I find truthful stories far more interesting than fictional or over commercialized and lit work. In turn, I believe the reactions and emotions that are derived from an amazing documentary photo series are truer.

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Phoblographer: Tell us about Muji. He has an incredible story.

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Doza: In 2011, Muji Karim was in a terrible accident that left him with 31% of his body covered in burns. This resulted in the amputation of both of his legs and four fingers on one hand. Having played football for the University of New Hampshire, Muji worked his ass off with the therapists at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital to learn to walk with prosthetics. Following his completion of treatment, Spaulding wanted to showcase his story to inspire others. Sadly, the following year was the bombing at the Boston Marathon, resulting in a new class of amputee patients needing support. Muji visited the hospital and victims going through similar training that he had. He became a beacon of support.

Phoblographer: How did you approach this story? Most photographers who do documentary work say that they take fewer photos by paying more attention and developing a rapport with their subject.

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Doza: This series was a little different than normal. We only had one day with Muji and he was also shooting a commercial simultaneously. Luckily this gave us some time to really develop trust and camaraderie. There are a lot of set ups and down time involved during a video shoot so we were able to talk and joke around in between. He was so cool and open that we were able to work pretty easily together. The whole approach was very natural. I tried to keep it as pressure free as possible and the least intrusive I could. I could tell our time together was a relief from the video shoot.

Phoblographer: What are some of the hardships that Muji goes through in his training?

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Doza: Physical and psychological. The psychological hardships may be the hardest from what I could tell. It’s something most people can probably never relate to. In this case your talking about a Division 1 football player losing his ability to play. Luckily Muji is a warrior and we ended the day throwing the football.

Phoblographer: When you’re going about the documentary process for a story like this, how do you specifically see images before they happen? Do you wait for an emotional moment? Do you try to get the details? What’s your thought process like?

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Doza: I try not to visualize too much before the shoot since I want the shots to be as organic as possible. We were lucky enough to document a workout that I knew would be extremely challenging for anyone with an injury so I knew we would get some great moments. I tend to perch myself at an angle I like and wait while watching through my viewfinder. Once I see the split-second moment or emotion I like, I snap off a couple shots. My goal is to always capture the emotion of the scene in the most organic way possible.

Phoblographer: How has this story motivated you to try to run the marathon yourself?

Doza: Muji’s strength and resilience were infectious. I had stepped away from running since high school but became truly inspired once I moved into Boston and began my photography career. The photo of Muji centered in the frame on a treadmill has been ingrained into my head. It’s hard to go for a run and not feel the strength he was pulling just to put one foot in front of another. I felt that after photographing Muji and witnessing others just like Muji run the marathon, I had to take a chance and work hard toward one of my life goals. So far I’m feeling really good about it and pretty far into training.

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