As the date approached for former President Donald Trump’s arraignment inside a Manhattan courthouse, the pressure mounted to make sure AP would get meaningful photos of the historic moment.
New York City bureau photographers Mary Altaffer and Seth Wenig, and photo editor Julie Jacobson negotiated for days to ensure AP would be among the tiny group of journalists allowed to document Trump’s court appearance, then captured remarkable pictures and pushed them out onto the wire minutes ahead of key competitors, leading to a dominating day of play.
Weeks before Trump’s arraignment, the AP’s New York photo staff began working to ensure we’d be in place to capture the historic moment. The effort focused on two critical locations: The courtroom where Trump would enter his plea and a hallway where he would appear for just a few seconds while in law enforcement custody. Getting access was not easy. NYC photo editor Julie Jacobson pressed court officials for access and spent days in discussions with other news agencies about a potential pool. Talks lasted through arraignment day, when Jacobson and photographer Seth Wenig negotiated for five hours to ensure the AP would have one of five spots inside the courtroom.
Meanwhile, photographer Mary Altaffer quietly arranged with court officials for the AP to have a coveted spot in the hallway, which was closed by security days ahead of the hearing. Their work paid off. Altaffer’s photos captured Trump surrounded by court officers. Wenig’s pictures documented a stone-faced Trump at the defense table. Moments after taking their photos, both photographers pushed select images from their cameras to Jacobson, who edited, captioned and filed them directly to the wire within seconds.
The AP got Altaffer’s and Wenig’s stunning photos out minutes ahead of the competition. AP’s first photos moved more than four minutes ahead of Reuters, even though Reuters also had a spot in the courtroom. The combination of speed and quality was unmatched. Networks, including CNN and Fox, immediately put first Altaffer’s and then Wenig’s photos on the air. A multitude of news organizations tweeted them out as the first photos of Trump in custody and in the dock. The early speed beat carried through the news cycle, with AP photos dominating the front pages of newspapers across the U.S. and abroad, including The New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today.
For their preparation, image quality and speed, resulting in pictures that put AP out front under incredible pressure and restrictions, Altaffer, Wenig and Jacobson earn this week’s second Best of the Week.
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