Friday, May 22, 2009


By Holly Van Voast

Boy am I burned out. What a week!

Issue 2 of LENSJOCKEY magazine was about struggle and love and pictures and people — photographers. At The NY Photo Festival 2009 — just last week! I got reactions ranging from disgust and meanness to genuine feeling and encouragement. All those things came from the same group. (And some of the genuine feeling and encouragement came from the top — William A. Ewing — just sayin.). I met people who listened and people who didn’t. I saw my nightmare and my triumphs. I triumphed over the fear of putting myself and my own ideas out there in front of the hip tough crowd of New York City photographers.

I’ve done it before. 

When I went to the racetracks in 2002, and started my seven year involvement shooting candid portraits of the jockeys riding in New York City, I had no idea what it would really lead to. And that crowd is a tough crowd too, that was good training. I went to the tracks cold, just like I did to the NY Photo Festival in 2009, seven years later. Cold and unknown, and not looking like much to so many. I really went from jockeys to lensjockeys — really. 

If I don’t tell this story, it won’t get told.

These are the pictures I took of those jockeys — 

Edgar Prado

I saw them in a way that was exclusive of the horses they rode. 

One of my favorite portraits of Norberto Arroyo Jr.

Over seven years I collected a group of portraits that were never-before taken of the men who I loved who rode the horses at 35 mph, and exploded from big metal banging gates on those horses in search of a win. 

Norberto is back -

There’s a TV show now, and the races get alittle more press these days, but when I started going, it was a ghosttown of a world, totally forgotten and insulated from the city around it. Totally.

It was sort of like robbing a bank

God, I loved jockeys. 

OMG Alan Garcia

I’d go to Aqueduct racetrack – sometimes on both weekend days — a 2 hour ride on the subway at least — just for one or two shots for a high. 

Pablo Morales lounging - or is it Jesus Ponce? dammit! I don't recognise either enough yet.

I never bet on the horses… 

Mr. Eibar Coa, on the first day of the 100th anniversary of Belmont Racetrack - NYC

I bet on jockeys — I thought they deserved way more attention than they got.

I still do. I can't shoot as much there as I used to — the magazine work takes up so much time and I got involved with a completely different scene for a time, but there are more and more people shooting jockeys now. Raymond Haddad — who shot the author photo for the second issue of LENSJOCKEY #2, was a friend of mine when we worked together at BMG/Columbia House - years ago, and he started to see what I did with the jockeys then. He saw a book I wrote, he read what I wrote online and off about the jockeys that I loved, the ones that I portrayed — and he saw my pictures. He loved my pictures. He can shoot there now more than I can, and that hurts, but he has become known in his own way for doing what I started in 2002. I see people shooting from the spots that I shot from, places where no professional would want to shoot from... now it is common, when I did it, I had it all to myself. I really felt like I had it all to myself. I have a priceless collection of men who rode from a time that doesn't exist anymore at all. I have the best collection of Norberto Arroyo Jr. portraits, a great collection of Edgar Prado portraits — John Velazquez, Pablo Fragoso, Alan Garcia, Mike Luzzi, Channing Hill — it seemed like such a golden time to me.

Alan Garcia - unfuckingstoppable

This is a picture I took of Alan Garcia in 2005 where he rode in a stakes race — The Gotham — at Aqueduct. He rode most of the race with his right foot completely out of the stirrup. That's what a jockey means to me. Just bombing down the track even if your foot is out of the stirrup. He almost won that race. It was pretty spectacular. he wasn't winning the race here though, I just wanted to shoot him because he was in the Paraneck Stables silks and he was a favorite jockey of mine. If that is the only racing shot I ever get, that would make me happy.

And that's how I feel about LENSJOCKEY magazine. I'm riding with one foot out of the stirrup and I might not win, but that is how I'm riding my life.

you can see my collection of jockey portraits on flickr:
and even earlier pictures: —scroll down to the bottom! To the album titled 
"The Woodless Wood Day" I posted my portraits there for years before going on flickr. It's disorganized, but those pictures are to me the soul of the start of interest in jockeys exclusively, there was nothing like that, noone had ever followed these men with a camera like me. I feel so lucky to have shot what I got at all the tracks I shot at. It is in the spirit of jockeys that I conceived of LENSJOCKEY magazine. Truly.

I started something at the tracks just focusing on jockeys, and I want to start something now with the photographers I see in New York City now. It's the same thing for me. Eric Brown is just like a jockey to me. He just uses a camera. btw - he's about to enter a contest in Alaska with his spectacular mutton chop sideburns. Good luck Eric!

Yosemite Brown


  1. what can i say...ahhhmazing. thanks for letting come on aqueduct trip. i feel priviledged to have an uber talented artist as my friend.

  2. Great stuff Holly! I went to the very beginning cause I really want to understand.. So far I love it.. Too bad I can't comment on each photo:) The first jockey photo, makes you wanna cry for him.