When our inner feelings do hit a certain, energetic peak, our face is uncontrollably configured in a way which communicates a clear, un-modulated emotional truth. This particular photograph of the policeman’s grief is real and rare; it draws out our own emotions and our empathy. This is what makes such an image so important, memorable, and irreplaceable.
And, it’s the empathy that’s the key here; the policeman's face evokes our own sadness about what’s happened to people we will never meet in a place we may have never been, but to which we nonetheless feel connected. His face is contorted into the classic grief pattern - eyebrows twisted up in distress, eyes compressed from below, mouth stretched sideways, lips pursed.
That’s why we have facial expressions – so we can share our deepest feelings - as the police officer in this picture is doing. According to the photographer, he heard sobbing, turned and shot this photo; but it’s not the policeman who was crying; it’s the woman whose face we don't see whom he is comforting. The officer's face is in grief because of his empathy for her which, in turn, inspires our empathy. This is the power of the face.