Derby Day Portraits

Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, as I did, puts the Kentucky Derby in your blood.  Yet I never attended a Derby until I was 49 years old and had lived away from Louisville for many years.  Instead I watched it on my family’s black and white TV.  My father went to the Derby pretty regularly as a reporter for the local newspaper, and I remember the stories he would bring home from his day at the track about the crusty trainers he had met in the barns on “the backside” or the temperaments of some of the more pampered thoroughbreds.  His assignments were always about the “color” of the event, not the race itself.  That was left for the sports writers. 

My first Derby was in 1995.  I went there on a lark, with a general admission ticket to make portraits with a heavy professional camera and a flash.  The unique character of the event, especially the people who attend the Derby or work there, immediately attracted me.  I decided I would return.  Over the next 18 years I made it to 12 more Derbies, and I continue to go in hopes of someday finishing and publishing a book that represents a cross section of the people who come to Churchill Downs on Derby Day, from poor kids who park cars in front yards around the track to thoroughbred horse owners on “Millionaires Row.”

Gregory Spaid

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