How photographers covered Made in America, capturing the artists and atmosphere

Every Monday, we present a gallery of pictures of the week that just passed, taken by our staff photojournalists — and tell you the story behind one of them. This week they talk about covering the eighth annual Labor Day weekend Made in America music festival.

Headliner Cardi B raises her hand while she performs during the first day of the Made in America festival on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Headliner Cardi B raises her hand while she performs during the first day of the Made in America festival on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019.

Inquirer staff photographers have been covering the Made in America music festival since Jay-Z first announced its inception on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2012. Six photographers covered the eighth annual version this Labor Day weekend, still on the Ben Franklin Parkway after 2018’s festival played out after the drama of a threat of it being the last.

For Tim Tai, covering an event like this “is all about logistics.” With three writers covering the performances, he said “photographers had to map out which stage and what time each act was on, and decide who would photograph which one.”

>>SEE MORE: Photos from Saturday’s MIA

Heather Khalifa, covering her second Made in America, was most pleased to learn they would be allowed to photograph the headliners, Cardi B and Travis Scott. She remembered being shocked last year to find out there would be no photography allowed for Post Malone, Kendrick Lamar or Nicki Minaj. So, this year she said, “was automatically a step-up in comparison. Photographing the headliner is definitely the most adrenaline-filled feeling of covering a festival of this caliber.” Heather also found the excitement and anticipation of the crowd, “affects you as well, and motivates you to want to make great photos.”

>>SEE MORE: Photos from Sunday’s MIA

Besides the stages, photographers also had to cover the rest of the scene. Tai said the artists “are only half the festival - the attendees are important, too.” Anthony Pezzotti, on his last day finishing up his summer internship at the newspaper, worked the crowd. He was able to roam around more freely than other staffers covering the musicians. “I discovered something more and more interesting to photograph around every corner,” he said, accidentally running into Gov. Wolf with Jay-Z; or finding the most fashionably dressed fans at the festival.

With no special parking reserved for working news media (except TV satellite trucks) Pezzotti had to hurry back across the crowded parkway to file his photos. And then return. The photographers working at the main stage were able to run to the media tent – where they had Wi-Fi - to quickly send a handful of images after shooting the first few songs of each act so that the online story could be updated. Then they would rush back to get the next set. Tai said it “takes a little bit of planning and teamwork for everything to come together.”

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