News photographers rarely get their due.
Capturing what master French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson dubbed “the decisive moment” can be extremely nerve racking. A reporter can miss a news story, scramble, and somehow recoup. A photographer misses that key moment and it’s over.
Photojournalists take all kinds of risks to capture the news. This inherently goes against human nature. While most people flee a tragedy, photographers race directly toward it. In addition to putting their own physical well-being on the line, there is the risk of being forever haunted by what they have seen.
Veteran Globe photojournalist John Tlumacki has covered everything from the joyous fall of the Berlin Wall to the unthinkable carnage of the Boston Marathon bombings. Try to put yourself in his shoes for a moment.
“Photography can be so mean,” says Tlumacki, a two-time Pulitzer finalist. “For your whole life and career, you embrace it. Each photo you hope tells a story. But as a photojournalist, sometimes the photos become emotional baggage that pull you down into depths never felt before.”
Tlumacki befriended some of the victims of the Marathon tragedy, who thanked him for recording history. But the trauma he witnessed also seared into his soul.
“The photographs I took of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings just didn’t end up on my camera disks, but they have been stored in my mind forever,” he says. “On really bad days, they come back to haunt me, and other times, they remind me of how fragile life is.”
Still, photography is amazing. At a fraction of a second, it forever freezes a moment in time. It can then be savored and studied. Television, on the other hand, is fleeting. It is viewed and then disappears.
When The Boston Daily Globe started publishing 150 years ago, the paper was as gray as a winter’s day. Each edition had tens of thousands of words — and no photographs. Over the years, drawings, cartoons, formal portraits, and, finally, news photographs were included.
One of the early news photos was a three-second time-exposure of lightning. It appeared on Page 8 of the Globe on October 5, 1898, next to a recipe for stewed potatoes and vanilla fingers.
Slowly, the newspaper began to evolve. On April 13, 1908, the Globe ran a photograph from the Great Chelsea Fire, spanning the entire width of the front page. About two years later, it published a photograph of Halley’s Comet and called it a “pretty good spectacle.” Long before motor-driven cameras, news photographers hauled around 4 by 5 Speed Graphic cameras — bulky contraptions that require the film to be exposed one frame at a time — so they had to make every shot count.
The craft was often passed down from generation to generation. Photographer LeRoy Ryan worked for the Globe and The Boston Post for 42 years. Before he retired, he hand-crafted several black metal dodging tools for his son David, a full-time Globe photographer since 1975, and others to use in the darkroom.
Former photography chief Bill Brett began his distinguished Globe career as a newsboy hawking papers on a Dorchester street corner. Sports photographer Frank O’Brien started as a messenger in advertising and then revolutionized the sports section with unique features that captured more than just the game. Feature photographer extraordinaire Ulrike Welsch, the first female photographer on the staffs of the major Boston newspapers, and Ted Dully, who left all his worldly possessions to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, dominated Globe front pages in the ‘70s and early ‘80s with stunning, uplifting images.
These photographers would each hold court in the large community darkroom, teaching the next generation of Globe photographers their craft.
Today, there’s no more darkroom. No chemical-stained fingernails from sloshing prints in the developer. Photographers now transmit their digital photos from a laptop anywhere they choose.
Today’s staff is perhaps the best ever. Jessica Rinaldi won a Pulitzer in 2016 and Erin Clark and Craig F. Walker were finalists within the last few years. At the most recent Patriots’ Super Bowl victory in 2019, the three photographers on hand for the paper — Barry Chin, Jim Davis, and I — had more than a century of experience combined.
In the early stages of the pandemic, despite the editor’s concern for their health, Globe photographers went into the hospitals, nursing homes, and funeral homes to document this horrific disease. Half of them became infected with COVID-19.
What follows in this special issue is an eclectic mix of photographs from this multitalented group, culled from the Globe’s archives. Each of these images tells a story, as only a photojournalist could tell it. Two of these photographs, by director of photography Bill Greene and staff photographer Suzanne Kreiter, respectively, are personal favorites.
The Greene photograph shows snowflakes kissing the faces of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” — orphans of war, safely sheltered here in Boston. The Kreiter image features a young Syrian refugee playing in an empty cardboard box in her new apartment. Both images magically capture something that we yearn to see more of in these troubled days: Joy.
Explore some indelible images by Globe photographers:
1908 — By Boston Globe staff
Damage is surveyed in the aftermath of the Great Chelsea Fire. At first glance, this could be showing the destruction of Dresden in World War II. The graininess of the photograph only adds to the misery contained within it.
1933 — By Boston Globe Staff
Boys playing baseball on Boston Common in February. Every inch of this frame, with every single kid engaged, has something to be savored. The brownstones surrounding the Common look the same today, but this is the age of the Boston scally cap.
1926 — By Hugh E. O’Donnell
Police pour illicit liquor down an East Cambridge sewer during Prohibition. Like fine wine (but not rot-gut whiskey), photos like this get better with age. For photographers, access is everything, and these officers clearly love getting their picture taken.
1960 — By Ed Kelley
John F. Kennedy gives a speech at the Boston Garden on the eve of the 1960 presidential election. This photo, which captures every detail of that historic moment, was once lost, and eventually found lying on the floor between two file cabinets.
1961 — By LeRoy Ryan
Young residents in Winthrop play a hazardous game with violent waves during a winter storm. It’s a safe bet to say LeRoy Ryan got sopping wet from the ocean spray, his hands numb; this was probably his only frame before the kids started clowning for the camera.
1964 — By Bob Dean
Access was better in the ‘60s, even for The Beatles. “In those days you were welcomed at concerts,” Dean said in a 1984 interview. “You could move around anywhere you wanted backstage, front stage, onstage.” Today, news photographers usually get to take photos for three songs only.
1965 — By Paul Connell
Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature that year. Instead of a headshot that could be from anywhere, Connell went slightly behind Dr. King and used a wide angle to show the Legislature.
1965 — By Dan Goshtigian
Celtics legend Bill Russell grabs a rebound during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Boston Garden. Sometimes one perfectly composed frame can capture the essence of a man’s career. You can feel the energy as Russell rips down a rebound against the hated West Coast rivals.
1969 — By Donald C. Preston
A woman walks under the elevated line on Washington Street in 1969. This is a classic time-capsule picture: shadows and light, misty sunlight, strong composition. You can almost hear the train coming.
1972 — By Ulrike Welsch
A construction worker carries a tree at a dizzying height atop 1 Beacon Street. Welsch wore a miniskirt to work that day, but rushed to Woolworth’s to buy slacks. Armed with an ultra-wide 20-millimeter lens, she wrapped her left arm around a pole and took the picture one-handed.
1972 — By Frank O’Brien
Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, left, consoles a sobbing Carlton Fisk after losing to the Detroit Tigers in a critical game. “Yawkey glared at me the whole time because Fisk was a rookie,” O’Brien told me. “He called me the next day and apologized.”
1974 — By George Rizer
Firefighters worked to put down a fire aboard a plane at Logan Airport. The lesson here is never argue with law enforcement. Rizer was threatened with arrest by a state trooper when he arrived at the airport. Wasting no time, he ran upstairs to the observatory. He placed his camera on a railing because of the slow shutter speed and the cold truth that news photographers hate to lug tripods.
1978 — By David Ryan
Cars are stuck on Route 128 in aftermath of the Blizzard of 1978. To get a shot like this from a helicopter, photographers typically set their shutter speed at 1/1,000th of a second to minimize vibrations.
1981 — By Frank O’Brien
Larry Bird smokes Red Auerbach’s cigar after the Celtics defeated the Houston Rockets to win the NBA Championship. “It was kind of bizarre,” O’Brien recalls. “Larry yanked the cigar out of Red’s mouth and put it in his mouth. To me the whole thing was disgusting.”
1982 — By Wendy Maeda
Jim Rice carries 4-year-old Jonathan Keane into the Red Sox dugout after he was injured by a line drive at Fenway Park. In baseball, photographers have to be ready for the unexpected. Rice is a Hall of Famer, but for many fans, this is his greatest moment.
1982 — By John Tlumacki
A firefighter runs from the intense flames as two triple-decker homes burn in Dorchester. This falls under the “shoot and scoot” philosophy of photojournalism. Tlumacki was able to make three frames before he was driven back by the searing heat.
1982 — By Ted Dully
A woman walks near the Christian Science Center in Boston after a spring snowstorm. The swirling snow, the energy of the hardy soul, and the beauty of Boston all come together in a beautiful wide angle composition. You can feel the cold, clean air.
1983 — By Jim Wilson
Marines in Delaware honor their comrades killed in a terrorist bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. This photograph was taken by longtime Globe photographer Jim Wilson, who passed away earlier this month. Behind his camera, there was always a smile.
1984 — By Stan Grossfeld
Migrant workers cross the Rio Grande between Mexico and Texas to find work. To make this picture, I waded into the river with a wide angle lens on my camera. The workers were apprehensive. “Yo loco en la cabeza,” I told them in broken Spanish, meaning “I’m crazy in the head.” They embraced me like a brother.
1984 — By John Tlumacki
Patriots fans, ashamed to show their faces, sit motionless in the stands during the final game of the season. Photographers should not just be cheerleaders for the home team. If the team stinks, find a way to show the smell.
1986 — By Joanne Rathe
Youths mourned a Black community leader who had been killed in South Africa before he and other anti-apartheid activists were to meet with an official from the US State Department. What makes this telephoto-lens photo so compelling is the faces, which tell the story, and the mood and the light.
1986 — By Janet Knott
Christa McAuliffe’s parents and her sister reacted after hearing that a malfunction had taken place after the Space Shuttle Challenger’s liftoff of Cape Canaveral. The Challenger exploded, killing all astronauts. “Mayhem in the spectator stands ensued as all reacted with horror and disbelief,” says Knott, who kept shooting. Then the problem was getting the picture back to the Globe. She went to the airport, only to find out the flight to Boston was canceled. She begged the Orlando Sentinel to use their darkroom and transmitted her pictures from there.
1989 — By John Tlumacki
November 11, 1989: People celebrate on a section of the Berlin Wall, at Potsdamer Platz, after its opening. Patience, patience, patience: Tlumacki waited for the perfect composition and then fired. Amateur photographers ask, “How many pictures did you take?” The answer is as many as you need.
1990 — By Michele McDonald
Jo-Anna Rorie, a midwife, attends to a patient at Dimock Health Center in Roxbury in a photo taken as part of reporting on racial disparities in the infant mortality rate. Developing trust between the subject and the photographer is critical. If you are honest and sincere, people will let you into their lives.
1992 — By Yunghi Kim
A press card is no protection in a foreign land. Yunghi Kim and former Globe reporter Wil Haygood were taken hostage by a rebel group in Somalia. When the rebels weren’t watching her, Kim shot photographs, at great personal risk. “She is as brave as they come,” Haygood says. After intervention from the United Nations and the aid group CARE, they were released.
1993 — By Bill Greene
Volunteer Pam Christian in Des Moines, Iowa, after working on sandbags during the Great Flood of 1993 along the Mississippi River. A great photograph can capture elements of emotion, composition, and light to bring awareness to disasters in a way statistics never can.
2001 — By Bill Greene
A week after arriving in the United States, two orphans from Sudan marvel at the snow near where they live with their foster family. When Bill Greene checked the Doppler radar and saw a snow squall was forecast, he called the foster family and asked if he could come over to visually record the special moment.
2002 — By Barry Chin
Tom Brady spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown in the home playoff game that became known as the “Snow Bowl,” en route to the Super Bowl. Photographers root for snow over rain: It’s prettier, it makes better pictures, and it is easier to keep your cameras working.
2002 — By Jim Davis
For this historic shot from the Super Bowl, Davis chose his spot wisely, behind the lineman but ahead of kicker Adam Vinatieri. It’s easy to get blocked out by referees, TV camera people, players, and others. Davis also resisted the urge to follow the ball and kept his lens on Vinatieri, proving that sometimes reaction is better than action. Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal sealed the Patriots win against the St. Louis Rams, 20-17.
2003 — By Jonathan Wiggs
In Iraq, Wiggs used a low camera angle to capture the pain of relatives finding the bodies of loved ones who were executed under Saddam Hussein’s reign, a dozen years earlier. “One day you’re in a America and comfortable and the next day you’re at a mass grave with people killed by a murderous regime,” Wiggs recalls. “It was a horrific scene just seeing the inhumanity and the grief of the loved ones. It still lives with me.”
2004 — By Barry Chin
Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees tangle during a bench-clearing brawl. This moment lit a fire under the Boston team, which eventually went on to win the World Series. The old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” holds true here: For Sox fans, this iconic image elicits happiness; for Yankee fans, pain.
2004 — By John Bohn
Jason Varitek, Keith Foulke, and Doug Mientkiewicz celebrated after winning the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. John Bohn positioned himself high above the third-base side and used a long telephoto lens to record the end of the Curse of the Bambino. Afterward, the Globe team scooped up dirt from home plate with the blessings of their gracious St. Louis hosts.
2008 — By Essdras M Suarez
A 6-year-old who was on a respirator through a tracheotomy showed off some ballet moves while attending summer camp in Newton. Suarez captured this remarkable child’s spirit by using soft window light and a beautiful composition that gives her room to move.
2011 — By Jim Davis
Davis knew that the Bruins captain Zdeno Chara would be the first to get to hold the Stanley Club. He set his shutter speed to 1/640th of a second on his 500mm lens and waited patiently. “I’m not a technical guy,” Davis says. “You anticipate the moment, follow him, and push the button.”
2013 — By John Tlumacki
Police officers react to an explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, while runner Bill Iffrig, 78, remains on the ground from a previous explosion. The blast from the terrorist attack tossed the camera Tlumacki was using in the air. This is the epitome of a dedicated news photographer, firing off frames instead of fleeing.
2014 — By Pat Greenhouse
Erin Vasselian receives a flag at the Abington gravesite of her husband, Marine Sergeant Daniel Vasselian. Daniel Vasselian was killed in Afghanistan two days before Christmas. Pat Greenhouse showed respect by using a telephoto lens and a high ISO speed. “I would not have used flash under any conditions,” she recalls. “It would have been disruptive.” The results are a moving portrait that shows a widow’s grief and the pain of war.
2015 — By Jessica Rinaldi
Pedestrians walk through a maze of snowbanks in downtown Boston amid a historically snowy winter. Here, the size of the T sign, the gigantic piles of snow, and the half buried pedestrians make for a unique image.
2016 — By Lane Turner
Deontae McLeod-Annon, left, 16, and Tina Samson, 17, share a moment on a trolley on the Mattapan-Ashmont High-Speed Line. A good photographer is like a tiny fly on the wall, but with a camera. Invisible.
2016 — By Keith Bedford
A girl cheers near the end of the Independence Day celebration at the Hatch Shell, along the Charles River Esplanade. Sometimes in photography, less is more. With hundreds of thousands of fans to choose from, Keith focused on just one to frame the event perfectly.
2017 — By Suzanne Kreiter
Abdulkader Hayani, a refugee from Syria, sets up a new, donated sewing machine as his youngest daughter, Ameeneh, plays in the box it came in. Capturing happiness in photography is one of life’s greatest gifts. The moment lasts forever and never gets old.
2017 — By Matthew J. Lee
This photo is all about anticipation. Matt Lee saw the police chasing this demonstrator at a “free speech” rally on Boston Common that was meet with a sizable counterprotest in August 2017. “He was cornered and I was thinking what’s his exit route going to be?” Lee says. Lee hustled there first and recorded the moment with a wide-angle lens.
2019 — By Erin Clark
A family in Biddeford, Maine, moved to a campground after being evicted from their home. This photograph has the classic rule of thirds where there are important elements in each section of the photo. But what sets it apart is the sunlight skimming across the mesh of the tent. Minutes later, maybe even seconds, it is gone.
2020 — By Jessica Rinaldi
Funeral director Joe Ruggiero, left, and apprentice funeral director Nick Verrocchi move a casket inside a makeshift storage area at the Ruggiero Family Memorial Home in East Boston. A great photograph takes the viewer someplace they have never been, and in April 2020 Jessica Rinaldi bravely captured the horror of the surging COVID-19 pandemic while protecting the dignity of victims.
2020 — By Craig F. Walker
This is a gift from the photo gods. Walker was driving by Carson Beach in the early days of the COVID pandemic and saw a man encased in a bubble. It was already twilight and a flash would ruin the mood, so Walker adjusted his settings and placed his camera on the ground. He aimed up with a wide-angle lens to take advantage of the open space in the almost nighttime sky.
Stan Grossfeld is a two-time Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist and an associate editor at The Boston Globe. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at email@example.com.