With the Eagles’ early exit from the NFL playoffs, you might not realize that the AFC and NFC championships are later today. Aside from former Eagles’ head coach Andy Reid having a chance to make his first Super Bowl with Kansas City since his run with the Eagles during the 2004 season, there’s not a ton to be hyped about from a Birds fans’ point of view. But, we included a small reminder further down the newsletter of a time when the Eagles made their own run through the playoffs. Some things won’t ever get old in this city.
Also, for this week’s Q&A, we spoke with one of our Inquirer photographers, Heather Khalifa, to learn what it takes to capture the perfect shot. Plus, she offers a tip to improve your own photography skills.
Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with Heather Khalifa, an Inquirer photographer who can be found anywhere from Sixers games to an exotic dance room that serves as a safe space for LGBTQIA performers.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It’s hard to describe any day as “typical” because our schedules and assignments are always changing, which is the nature of being a photojournalist. An average day might consist of two to three assignments. They range anywhere from taking a portrait of someone to Council meetings at City Hall. Sometimes it’s spot news. My favorite assignments are ones where I get to spend some time with the people I’m photographing to better understand their typical day and who they are as people.
What do you look for when you’re covering, say, a rally or a march versus a Sixers game?
At a rally or march I always look for moments and, if applicable, good light. At a Sixers game, I’m always looking for moments, something that’s off the cuff in addition to peak action. You never want to miss a major play or defining game moment when photographing sports. But it’s also always nice (and a challenge) to make a spontaneous photo of something pre- or post-game, or even during the game that’s not during play. Those moments can be very fleeting so you have to be alert. Luckily for us, there is no shortage of unexpected moments when you have players with big personalities like Joel Embiid.
Your most recent gallery focuses on queer exotic dancers in the adult entertainment space. How did you learn about this story and what was it like shooting inside the Gold Club in Baltimore?
I learned about the story through Bethany Ao, who was the reporter. We both agreed that the story had to be photographed with care and sensitivity. It was a different setting for sure and not your everyday assignment location, which made it fun. There were a lot of opportunities to make great photos, not just of the performances but by going backstage where the dancers were getting ready. This helped for more intimacy with the photographs, but also to get a sense of who these dancers are when they are not performing. A strong photograph is one that, among other things, evokes a sense of reality. That same principle applies to photographing performers, athletes, politicians, etc. As a photojournalist, I never want to only photograph performative behavior. Breaking down those barriers and working past them is often the hardest part of the job.
Fill in the blank: A good way to improve your photography skills is ___________.
Keep shooting! Practice makes perfect. Everyone can and should always be learning and willing to improve in their craft. That applies especially to photography.
The Birds may not be in the playoffs anymore, but we’ll always have this moment. Thanks for the picture, @chloemek.
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One thing I’ve learned in my years of eating cheesesteaks, “house made wiz” is never as good as the original. Also, a good steak has 6 ingredients - Roll, shaved ribeye, grilled onions, cheese, salt, pepper. Anything else and it’s something different (though I will sometimes add hot peppers at a place that I know isn’t that good). — Angus215, on Who is Philly’s cheesesteak authority? Maybe this guy, who ate 500 cheesesteaks in 20 months.