Photographers Battle Rain, Each Other to Shoot DSK

Reuters shooters share war stories from a news stakeout in New York

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A news story that takes minutes to read frequently requires many hours to report, and for photographers and others who must stake out a location such as the NYPD's Harlem police precinct on Sunday or the New York Criminal Court on Monday, those hours can be long and soaked with rain. Today, some Reuters photographers shared stories from their hours of tedium while jockeying for position to get the best shots of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as he made brief public appearances in police custody between the time of his arrest and his arraignment.

The ordeal started on Saturday night, when photographer Allison Joyce arrived at the Harlem precinct's special victim's unit. By Sunday morning, Mike Segar had joined her at the precinct, and the two waited for the infamous NYPD "perp walk" with a growing crowd of other photographers. Joyce, whose flash was ruined by the rain early on, recalls the "countless false starts of the night, peppered with speculation, coffee runs, pizza deliveries and high anxiety" until Strauss-Kahn finally walked out.

At 11:00pm, I was perched on a small stool, sandwiched between a videographer’s armpit and a photographer’s elbow, when suddenly it happened. Silent and angry, Strauss-Kahn came out cuffed, staring straight ahead – a trophy escorted by five detectives.... Just as DSK was being guided into the car he looked straight at me, but said nothing. I leaned on the shutter and prayed that the flash would penetrate the glass of the window. Et voilà!

Mike Segar has an arduous account of the wait on Sunday, starting with his first thought on being given the assignment: "Where are my most comfortable shoes and best rain gear for standing out on concrete sidewalks and up on ladder rungs for hours on end in the rain. It turns out, they don’t make shoes comfortable enough for this one." He paints a vivid picture of the camaraderie combined with competitiveness of a scrum of photographers, all stuck in the same situation, who must still guard their prized sliver of sidewalk for when the photo opportunity comes.

At 7:30am only a handful of press was on hand in Harlem in the early morning’s pouring rain, as I positioned a small step ladder, (we have them in all sizes just for this sort of event) near a police parking lot driveway where I could see the back entrance of the precinct where hopefully Strauss-Kahn would, at some point, be walked out. This would become my 2 foot square home for most of the next 16 hours.... 

The morning’s coffee and bagels turn later into the afternoon’s pizza. Stories are told. Newspapers are worn out. BlackBerrys are overworked. Bits of information are passed back and forth, everyone trying to guess what will happen and when. Nothing happened. 

In the courtroom, the difficulty is not the weather but the other journalists. Shannon Stapleton has an account of fighting her way through the tabloid court reporters to snag some shots of Strauss-Kahn at his arraignment.

I went into the Press Office there and inside there were tabloid covers pasted all over the walls. Luckily, having been in New York for almost 15 years I know most of the guys whose beat is the courts for the tabloids in the city and can be a feisty, somewhat territorial, bunch. They gave me the inside scoop and let me set up my computer in the room which turned out to be a very kind gesture because others were not so welcomed....

As 10am passed by quickly we continued to wait outside and the group of 5 photographers (three newspaper and two wires) was expanded by two more wire service photographers. At about noon we were escorted into the courtroom. As we walked to our tight designated spot we could see Strauss-Kahn sitting by himself waiting to be seen by the judge and his attorney. We all started shooting quickly and did our best not to be all over each other.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.