A View from the Backstretch

“A View from the Backstretch” is a collaboration between Obie- and Bessie-award-winning Vermont photographer Dona Ann McAdams and a group of Saratoga Race Course’s backstretch workers, including exercise riders, hot walkers, maintenance personnel, a trainer, and a groom. 

To more deeply engage with both her human and equine subjects, in the early 2000s McAdams began working as a licensed hot walker at Saratoga. Through this experience she not only became friends with backstretch workers but also involved in their lives. Later she initiated weekly photography workshops for her backstretch colleagues where they learned photographic techniques, studied the work of other photographers, and critiqued each other’s images. “A View from the Backstretch“ brings together black and white photographs taken by Dona Ann McAdams as well as color photographs created by her photography students from their own unique perspectives on the backstretch

Over the past year, the Vermont Folklife Center has been working with McAdams to deepen the connection between the public and these track workers by further documenting their life stories using the oral interview. In this exhibit, through photography and interview, visitors will experience an intimate look at an occupation unseen by most. 

Dona Ann McAdams is an internationally published and exhibited photographer. Her work has been displayed at, among other places, the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and The International Center for Photography. She’s the recipient of the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize given by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, and her book of photography Caught in the Act  was published by Aperture.

The backstretch photographers include Louis Garcia, Heather Coots, Frank Fodera, Paul Perry, Kenny Streicher, Sigrid Wallace, and Carole Williams.