Discover more from Field of View
The Arraignment of a Former President
Five photographers documented history inside a Manhattan courtroom.
Every detail of this photo by Seth Wenig is captivating — an American flag haphazardly pinned to the wall, eight people with varied expressions and gazes, the masked police officer, and a former President of the United States staring directly into the lens.
Wenig, a photographer with the Associated Press, was one of five still photographers granted access to document the unprecedented moment yesterday when former President Donald J. Trump appeared in court. Trump, the first-ever president to be charged with a crime, pled not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.
Reuters photographer Andrew Kelly captured an almost identical moment with slight, but important, differences. Trump appears less subdued, as if he’s on the verge of cracking a smile, like his lawyers.
But then Kelly moved lower, isolating Trump’s face, placing him closer to the flag on the wall. Trump’s eyes turn, his eyebrows raise slightly, giving an impression of uncertainty.
Veteran New York Post courts photographer Steven Hirsch also nailed it. The foreground is busier but Hirsch re-introduces the cop on the far left, whose expression is classic. The masked cop’s glare towards Trump seems more evident.
AFP’s Timothy Clary captured a slightly tighter version of the same scene, zeroing in on Trump’s side eye.
The Daily Mail’s Curtis Means went way tighter, and lower, isolating Trump and capturing a more defiant, chin-up expression.
Means also shot this photo, which emphasizes the prosecutors and makes Trump seem like an afterthought. It also shows the position of the officers behind Trump.
Kelly went even wider and showed the rest of the courtroom in this photo. There’s a lot to unpack — more police, more people, more expressions. Looks like members of the Secret Service are in the back, against the wall. Trump appears to be staring a hole through the prosecutors.
Speaking of stares, Wenig also made these two similar frames of Trump with very different implications.
The mid-blink capture makes Trump look sleepy, disinterested. A photo editor that would select this photo over the others is potentially editorializing the situation.
Each of the five photographers sent a variety of images from inside the courtroom but one photo dominated the front pages today. Seth Wenig’s image landed on Page One of The New York Times and The Washington Post.
The Times cropped out the empty chair on the far right and The Post excluded the cop on the far left. Neither are ideal. I’m not a fan of cropping photos but if limited to four columns, then I’d lean towards the Post’s version.
The Wall Street Journal published Steven Hirsch’s photo at five columns. Again, the crop is not ideal but it still looks great.
Andrew Kelly’s photo made the cover of The New York Post. Kelly’s image works nicely with the headline.
International newspapers also published courtroom photos by the AP’s Seth Wenig, including The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and la Repubblica.
The New York Daily News went a surprisingly different direction and published a strong image of Trump entering the courthouse by AP photographer Mary Altaffer.
The Times of London also used Altaffer’s photo, brutally cropped.
Other photographers captured this moody scene outside the courtroom too, including AFP’s Ed Jones. Love everything going on here. It’s chaotic but the subject of the photo is clear.
Jones’ striking image made the cover of the Los Angeles Times.
I can’t imagine the pressure these photographers were under, inside and outside the courtroom. Despite the “circus-like atmosphere” they delivered.