To say every picture is worth a thousand words sorely underestimates the impact of photojournalism. Think the Vietnam war and what comes to mind? The photo of a girl named Phan Thi Kim Phuc running from a napalm airstrike. The photo was taken by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut in 1972.
Think of the protest at Tiananmen Square in China in 1989. Here another AP photographer Jeff Widener was on a sixth-floor balcony of a Beijing Hotel. His photo of a man carrying shopping bags standing bravely in front of a row of tanks showed the most remarkable act of courage and resistance.
One poignant example a reader noted this month was the front page photo by Getty Images photographer David Becker of a man cradling a woman in the midst of the Las Vegas shooting. Mr. Becker, who was covering the music festival there, risked his own life to document the humanity and the horror.
Nothing grabs your emotions and holds on so tight and so long as a single still photo.
Last weekend, an equally impactful photo on the front page and another on the Focus cover showed Byron Ruttan, a man raped, at the age of 12, by a court-appointed mentor. Mr. Ruttan’s quest for justice, as an adult, was delayed further when his mentor, though convicted, was allowed to walk free after higher courts cited an “unreasonable delay” in the trial. Mr. Ruttan’s courageous face bears the scars of such a terrible life, but his dignity and strength shine through. It’s worth noting that there was a publication ban on the identity of Mr. Ruttan as there is for victims of sexual assault. They can be overturned with a subject’s consent and Mr. Ruttan agreed to seek an end to the ban. The Globe’s Fred Lum took two and a half hours to photograph him and his son. It takes time to gain the trust of subjects and to feel their story.