How an Inquirer photographer turned a dramatic protest arrest into an iconic political image.

Every Monday, we present a gallery of recent pictures taken by our staff photojournalists and tell the story behind one of them. This week staff photographer David Maialetti talks about how he made a dramatic protest arrest even more politically relevant.

NJ State Police remove Sue Altman, state director, New Jersey Working Families before George E. Norcross III (left) testifies in front of the N.J. Senate Select Committee on Economic Growth Strategies about his role in the controversial state tax incentive program in Trenton on November 18, 2019.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
NJ State Police remove Sue Altman, state director, New Jersey Working Families before George E. Norcross III (left) testifies in front of the N.J. Senate Select Committee on Economic Growth Strategies about his role in the controversial state tax incentive program in Trenton on November 18, 2019.

As New Jersey state troopers were dragging Camden political activist Sue Altman out of a state Senate committee hearing room on Monday, Inquirer staff photographer David Maialetti realized she was about to cross paths with her chief political foe: South Jersey Democratic powerbroker George E. Norcross III.

Altman, who denied making noise, was being forcibly removed after the committee chairman warned attendees about disrupting the hearing. And sitting in the front row, between her and the exit, was Norcross waiting to testify about his use of the state’s controversial tax credit program.

While most journalists were at the front of the room, focusing on the troopers grabbing her, Maialetti positioned himself off to the side, next to Norcross, and waited until both were visible in his viewfinder.

“I purposely pulled back to wait for that,” he said. “I always try to push myself away from the pack if I can. Just being willing to take a chance.”

Maialetti made just three pictures where both Altman and Norcross were visible but they were enough. He immediately transmitted a photo back to the newsroom and tweeted it out as well.

“Knowing who people are is really important,” Maialetti said. “Having both her and Norcross in the same frame, I thought, was important to tell the story.”

>>SEE MORE: Last week’s staff photo gallery and the staff photography page

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