Jae Donnelly: Where is the Photojournalist Now?

Image Credit: WNYC/Youtube

Netflix’s ‘Scoop’ begins with a photograph. Taking the audience to 2010, the film follows a young journalist who chases after his subjects in New York City to take a few clicks that eventually lead to an interview about a decade later and change everything for the subject of his pictures. The photographer is a man named Jae Donnelly. While the film focuses on the events surrounding the interview, it also underlines the importance of Donnelly’s work and how nothing in the movie would have happened if he hadn’t done his job. So, even though he doesn’t get much screen time in the movie, he is still an essential part of the story. It’s been a few years since the Prince Andrew interview came out, but what became of the photographer who caught him with Jeffrey Epstein?

Jae Donnelly is Still Dedicated to His Job

Living in New York and now in his early 50s, Jae Donnelly continues to work as a photojournalist and click pictures that have the potential to change the tide of a person’s life. A member of the National Press Photographers Association, he started his career with a job in the UK, working for some of the most prominent newspapers in the country. He was later recruited by an American agency, which led to his move to New York to photograph celebrities. To some, his work might not seem like much, but Donnelly has been through extensive training that makes him fit to work in any kind of situation. He is “hostile environment trained” and is “commissioned for surveillance/covert assignments.”

Image Credit: WNYC/Youtube

Donnelly went through “a week of intense military-style training in Virginia” and learned “extreme First Aid, checkpoint training, kidnapping, being shot at by snipers.” The training tested his endurance right off the bat, as the photographer revealed that they were “ taken hostage at the very start with explosives going off and bags put over our heads and marching through some forest” so that he and other trainees would be fully equipped to be able to go to any kind of place in the world and cover “the dangerous stuff.”

Many may feel that his training doesn’t come in handy because he is not exactly in a war zone in America, but celebrities are not the only thing Donnelly covers. In 2020, he was on an assignment to cover the protests, and on June 2, he was out past curfew following a group of protestors. As a journalist, the curfew rules didn’t apply to him, but that didn’t stop a police officer from striking him in his face. Donnelly revealed that he repeatedly told the police officer that he was a journalist but was “nonetheless pursued into the street and shoved with such force that [he] landed on the ground several feet away.”

Image Credit: WNYC/Youtube

This encounter led to several injuries as Donnelly suffered head trauma, a hematoma on his cheek, and bruises on his limbs. His camera was also damaged in the encounter, leaving him unable to work on any assignment for the next few weeks. Donnelly was not the only journalist to have been mistreated during the protests. In 2021, with four others- Amr Alfiky, Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi, Mel D. Cole, and Adam Gray, he filed a lawsuit against the NYPD, and they eventually reached a settlement.

For Donnelly, no matter what the assignment, the photographs he takes are much more than they appear on the surface. He calls them “evidence”. His job is “gathering intel and evidence for whoever [he’s] on contract to find.” Doing his job effectively requires him to “blend in and create opportunities by exploiting a detail’s operations” and, most importantly, never to get caught. He confesses that for most of his time on the job, all he does is wait and stare and that the stress can be “phenomenal and unbearable sometimes.” He has to find all sorts of vantage points, hiding in the bushes or looking through someone else’s apartment window to get the right shot. But for all that he has to go through, the reward is also high.

Reportedly, Donnelly gets anywhere between $30k to $60k for his pictures. A good exclusive is worth the effort, and the money is too much for him to consider quitting this job. He considered its ridiculousness by comparing it to his father’s job, who was a builder, and “slugged his guts out” for his work and the money it brought in. But all he has to do is find the right shot of the right person, and it earns him “a silly amount of money,” which he thinks is “bonkers,” but that’s the thing. Always being at the right time at the right place and taking the right photo under the right circumstances is not something everyone can do; Jae Donnelly, however, seems to have mastered that.

Read More: Was Jeffrey Epstein Married? Did He Have Kids?