AP Photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize Winner
From the red carpet at the Academy Awards to Barbaro winning the Kentucky Derby, from the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Twin Towers to the 1992 Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden when Bill Clinton won the Presidential nomination, Amy Sancetta was there. With camera in hand, eye at the lens, walking around these subjects looking at different angles, she was capturing the moment.
Her photographs grab your attention, the particular image tells a story. A Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist, she has worked full time for the Associated Press (AP) for 28 years. Looking at this trim, middle aged woman about 5’6” in height, it is hard to believe she has lugged 40 pounds of camera equipment with her on assignments. “It goes with the job,” shrugs Sancetta, “but the best part is I get paid to see.”
Growing up in Moreland Hills, her brother, an Eagle Scout, let her experiment with his old 35 mm Konica camera when he wasn’t using it to earn merit badges. Working on the Orange High School yearbook staff, she learned more about photography through trial and error. The sports editor of the Chagrin Valley Times asked if any students wanted to take pictures of school sports events in the neighboring Chagrin Valley communities. Sancetta jumped at the opportunity. “At that time, it was good money, $15 a picture for the ones used in the newspaper. With that, I could pay for my gas and buy new records to listen to,” she said. Even though she was a history major and English minor at Ohio State University, she kept taking pictures. At OSU, a big sports campus, she had many opportunities to take pictures of team players at the games.
“Mentors were influential for me starting out in my career,” said Sancetta, “so I strongly believe in their value.” While in high school, she took the initiative to contact Madeline Drexler, one of the first women AP photographers, to find out more about the profession. While in college in Columbus, she worked with AP photojournalist Harry Cabluck, and Brian Horton, both “great teachers.” After graduation, she spent two years working at the Columbus Dispatch. In 1983, the AP hired her for a staff position at their Philadelphia bureau where she worked for 10 years.
“While covering the 1992 Democratic Convention in New York City, on the crowded Madison Square Garden floor with barely any room to move, I saw Bill Clinton standing with his 12-year-old daughter, Chelsea, to the side of the stage. There were many people in front of me, but I was poised and ready with the camera,” she explained setting the stage. “In one second, the people parted like the Red Sea, I saw Clinton with his head held high to the side proudly smiling as his name was announced as the presidential Democratic candidate. Chelsea with long curly hair was close to his side holding his hand, shyly smiling and looking down. This picture, one of ten different pictures portraying the presidential campaign, the AP submitted them as a package that year winning a Pulitzer Prize. I have covered every president since Ronald Reagan,” she added.
Sancetta now lives in the same Moreland Hills home where she grew up. When she is not glued behind a camera lens, she enjoys teaching and mentoring, and being active in animal rescue organizations. Always with an active eye, she continues to take pictures, even in her own neighborhood. For example, she recently captured a traditionally dressed, teenage Amish girl rollerblading down a small hill on a nearby country road – a special picture to see.
From Cool Cleveland contributor Susan Schaul, who says the act of writing is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. The challenge lies in getting the pieces to fit together and make sense.