Philly ballroom: How an Inquirer photographer captured the essence of the scene’s pioneers

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 Tim Tai talks about making portraits of the founders of Philadelphia’s ballroom scene.

Some of the pioneers in Philadelphia’s ballroom scene. TOP ROW (FROM LEFT): Sexy Lexy Balenciaga; Reno Prestige; Meechie Lanvin. BOTTOM ROW (FROM LEFT): Raphael Excellence; Angel Revlon; Alvernian Prestige.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Some of the pioneers in Philadelphia’s ballroom scene. TOP ROW (FROM LEFT): Sexy Lexy Balenciaga; Reno Prestige; Meechie Lanvin. BOTTOM ROW (FROM LEFT): Raphael Excellence; Angel Revlon; Alvernian Prestige.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Philadelphia’s ballroom scene. And so Inquirer photographer Tim Tai set out to illustrate the personalities of some of its most influential founders.

Tai said he wanted to “capture a sense of their personality and their style,” though some of these subjects aren’t as active in the ballroom scene anymore.

“I think the portraits were a good way to contrast and add to the pictures of the individuals who were walking in balls,” Tai said of the images.

The dramatic portraits — monochromatic dress and stylized lighting — gave a certain dignified feeling, which Tai captured in the Inquirer’s photo studio and on location.

Each person pictured was “instrumental in the development of the ballroom scene in Philadelphia,” said Tai. He added that these portraits were an effort to give them their due credit in developing the scene over the years.

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

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