Photography - Capturing the Fastest Horse at the Kentucky Derby

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017
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Livingston as a Young Photographer

Barbara Livingston as a Young Photographer

Barbara D. Livingston is one of America's most respected horseracing photographers, having photographed the sport she loves for more than 35 years. Livingston was just ten when, in 1971, she first aimed a camera toward the Thoroughbred world. Two years later, she photographed greatness as Secretariat whisked past in a Saratoga workout. By the next year, when she watched Ruffian dominate the 1974 Spinaway, she had decided upon her goal: to record racing history. Ruffian's Spinaway remains the most exciting race Livingston has ever seen. In a sport of raw speed where champions are determined by milliseconds, it's Barbara Livingston's job to freeze time.

 

One of Livingston Horse Photos 

  "What makes the perfect photograph?" CBS News' Don Dahler asked the photographer. "I'll let you know when I get one," she said with a laugh. "I look for color, light and to keep distractions to a minimum from the subject matter so you're drawn into the moment. And there are so many beautiful moments here." Many of those moments happen off the track. "To actually get something that evokes feelings as opposed to something that is technically a good shot, there's a world of difference between the two. It doesn't always happen, but it sure is fun when it does," she said.

Photo under horse feet

Livingston fell in love with horses as a young girl. Beginning with her dad's Instamatic, she has been photographing them all her life. Now chief photographer for the Daily Racing Form, she's won more of her industry's Eclipse awards than anyone. Not bad, for someone who's nearly blind. Due to an unsuccessful childhood eye operation, she can only see blobs of color with her left eye and extremely blurry images with her right.

sunset

 

Her cameras have special viewfinders that help somewhat. But she has zero depth perception. "I don't actually know if you're closer to me than the horse. I just know by going like this," she said, moving side to side.

 silver charm

"I think that helps me."

"You think it helps you?" Dahler asked.

"Sure. I see like a photograph. The world is a photograph," she said.

And what a world she sees.

 

Girolamo saddling

 

On race week, the 56-year-old's days begin before dawn, and her pace is, well, exhausting. But the smile never leaves her face:

 

Horse CUP

 

Livingston studied the work of the great equine photographers of yesteryear: Skeets Meadors, Bert Clark Thayer, Allen Brewer, C.C. Cook. She pored over issues of her favorite trade magazine, The Blood-Horse, and attended Syracuse University, graduating with a degree in Experimental Photography.

Soon after graduation, Livingston's first Blood-Horse cover appeared, and another followed shortly thereafter. In the more than two decades since, Livingston's photos have appeared on countless magazine covers and in nearly every trade publication.

 

Devil HIs Due

 

Her photography also reaches a mainstream audience. Her racing-related photographs have graced the pages of People, Newsweek, Gentleman's Quarterly (GQ), Sports Illustrated (including a two-page spread in the Leading Off section), Cigar Aficionado, Reader's Digest, and even the covers of TV Guide and Vanity Fair.

 

Jumping Horse

 

She has twice been awarded the highest photographic honor in Thoroughbred racing, the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Photography. Livingston is the author of four books published by Eclipse Press in Lexington, Kentucky. FOUR SEASONS OF RACING (1998) photographically portrays the various aspects of a year in the world of racing. OLD FRIENDS, VISITS WITH MY FAVORITE THOROUGHBREDS, (2002) chronicles the stories -- in photographs and words -- of ninety senior Thoroughbreds.

 

"Every day I wake up, I'm happy to be coming here. Every day when I go home, I'm happy that I was here.

And every night I go to sleep, then I can't wait to be back here," Livingston said.

"You found your place in the world," Dahler said.

"Yeah. And how lucky am I to have that?" she replied.

No, how lucky are we?

 

Livingston opening web site

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT:  BARBARA LIVINGSTON WEB SITE