It was the kind of day every photographer dreads – pouring rain and a 15-hour stakeout. Not only were my shoes soaked through, but my only flash had drowned by the time I arrived at the NYPD Special Victims Unit headquarters in Harlem. By 8:30am, a mix of French and American media had gathered behind the police station, awaiting IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s perp walk.
Once seen as a strong contender for next year’s French presidential elections, Strauss-Kahn was now being charged with the attempted rape of a Manhattan hotel maid. We were informed the night before that he would be brought to his arraignment around noon. But as in all situations, things rarely go as planned; we knew we were in for a long wait. I was posted at the front entrance for most of the day and at 4:00pm, senior Reuters photographer Mike Segar motioned for me to join him in the crowd of 50+ journalists at the back of the station because it appeared that Strauss Kahn was about to be led out.
This was just the beginning of the countless false starts of the night, peppered with speculation, coffee runs, pizza deliveries and high anxiety. Seven hours later, 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. I had planned to shoot available light from the video cameras, but at the last second, another photographer offered to lend me a flash. 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!
When you get a late Saturday night/early Sunday morning phone call while driving home after shooting a Yankees vs Red Sox game asking if you are available to work on Sunday on a stakeout at a police station in New York City, the first thing that crosses your mind as a photojournalist is not “Oh boy, a great assignment!” Far from it. Your thoughts turn quickly to: 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.
When we learned late Saturday night that Strauss-Kahn was being formally charged with attempted rape and other criminal charges, fellow Reuters photographers Brendan McDermid, Lucas Jackson and Pictures editor Gary Hershorn and I spoke at length – trying to gather together a plan and enough photographers to have multiple shooters covering multiple locations in Manhattan. All in the hope that we could get photographs of Strauss-Kahn in police custody and in handcuffs, knowing they would be of major importance and widely published.