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On the cover of its May edition, Boston magazine pays tribute to its city with a moving and stunningly simple photograph. The image features 120 running shoes, all worn in the Boston Marathon, shaped in a heart around the headline: “We Will Finish the Race.”
The idea behind the photo was to find a way to honor the bombing victims and the entire city for its response to the tragedy, said John Wolfson, the magazine’s editor-in-chief.
“Every single shoe contributed a tiny little bit to the overall effect, but collectively, you have something powerful,” he said. “If you remove just one shoe, it diminished the picture in some small way. You need every one of those shoes. And I really feel strongly that that’s what happened here in the city. Every person here pulled together.”
Wolfson said the Boston Marathon bombings occurred just days before his staff was scheduled to ship out the magazine’s next issue. Everyone immediately knew they had to scrap their previous cover story and start over. Someone suggested the idea of collecting shoes from runners in the race, and the magazine’s art and design directors came up with final idea.
“It took us about 20 seconds to realize that actually that was the entire story,” Wolfson said.
Inside, the magazine features 15 of the dozens of interviews the staff conducted with marathon runners. Each runner was asked the same question: What did Monday’s race mean to you?
Each vignette is accompanied by a picture of the runner’s shoes. The back cover of the magazine features the same shoe pattern as the front cover, but shows the soles of the shoes instead.
Wolfson said the biggest problem for the staff was finding all those shoes within a matter of days.
“We scrambled, we used social media, we had everyone on staff calling everyone they could think of — friends, family members who ran," he said. "We did everything we could possibly do.”
All the interviews and shoe photos that didn’t make the magazine will be posted online. The magazine also will have a landing page where readers can submit their own stories and pictures.
Other magazines are paying tribute to the Boston Marathon tragedy in different ways. Sports Illustrated devoted its past two covers to Boston, including its current one featuring Jonny Gomes of the Boston Red Sox flexing his muscle over the word “strong.”
The New Yorker’s latest edition features a cover illustration of several runners, with only their feet showing outside of long shadows cast on the pavement.
Wolfson said he knew when they re-created their May cover, “we had only one opportunity to capture the moment.”
Early editions of the magazine will hit newsstands Friday but the magazine will officially be released Tuesday. Wolfson said he was overwhelmed by the response Thursday when the magazineposted a picture of its cover on Facebook and via Twitter.
“This would make a great poster!” wrote one fan on Facebook, where the image received more than 8,000 likes and 7,000 shares within hours of being posted.
Wolfson said that was the plan anyway, with all the profits going to charity.
“We hoped to announce that later, because we didn’t want to presume this would resonate the way it has,” he said. “But we’ve been overwhelmed by the response.”