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Sarah Hoskins | Back to the Backside

One of the coldest snowiest years on record. People don’t realize working with horses is a 365 day a year job no matter what the conditions.

Where does Sarah go so early every Sunday morning, to church?
No she goes to the racetrack.

Behind barn doors and the winners circle is a place called the backside. Where dreams and dreamers of the Big Horse reside. I used to think this work was just about the unseen world of horse racing and those who worked on the backside. Somewhere along the way and over the years I realized it was about me as well. It is the one of the few places I can say that I have always felt comfortable, I am welcomed.

I know the work I know the backside banter, I know the people, the horses. I am not judged nor am I judging. Maybe it is my church.

Often the people I photograph think I am just interested in their horse, they will stop and pose their horse to be photographed. On this morning he let me make a photo more about him.
Are a piece of horse equipment that prevents the horse seeing to the rear and, in some cases, to the side. Many trainers believe these keep the horse focused on what is in front of him, encouraging him to pay attention to the race rather than other distractions, such as crowds.
This woman is holding the horse for the vet as he is checked for an injury.
A tack room is where all the needed supplies are stored. Often you will find trainers and grooms watching TV, eating and sometimes sleeping there.
A horse rests after its morning works.
Children of the workers in a tack room pretending they are jockey’s.
“The big horse,” is a term used to describe the horse that brings fame and fortune to a stable. The best horse in a trainers barn.
This jockey is off to gallop a horse part of the morning rituals on the backside.
My friend who is in his 80’s and worked for years and years with horses still will get up a few days a week just to visit. The backside stays with you, it doesn’t leave even when you do.

Q&A with Sarah Hoskins

Photography is…

…my excuse. It is what allows me to be some place or meet someone I might not otherwise get to. Photography is my excuse.

Photography and writing…

Photography comes first for me, however I often find myself writing the story about the photo I took after. Often about the person in it or the experience I had making the photograph. Captioning is not something I am fond of.

Who left the biggest impression on you?

Dorthea Lange, Walker Evans and Lewis W. Hine.

Tell us a little about yourself

I was quoted a number of years ago in a photo publication that I am not an objective observer. That still holds true today. I tend to work on long-term documentary projects getting personally involved with those I photograph. I care about the people I photograph, their lives and what happens to them. I also say the reward is in the doing. Like this work here. I am rewarded again and again by getting to know someone I might not otherwise have the opportunity to if it weren’t for my camera. Sometimes their world becomes my own.


Sarah Hoskins ( is a documentary photographer. Her photographs have been published nationally and internationally and are in numerous permanent collections.
In March 2010 NPR’s Picture Show featured her Homeplace project, a month later NPR’s Weekend Edition traveled with her to Kentucky and did a feature on her and this work. The NPR Pictureshow piece received an end of the year award from The White House News Photographers Association.
She is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships.

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