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 —
I saw them in a way that was exclusive of the horses they rode.
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.
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.
God, I loved jockeys.
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.
I never bet on the horses…
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.