Backside: A Look at the Unseen Side of Thoroughbred Racing documents the life on the backside of New York State Thoroughbred racetracks, a place rife with contemporary issues like illegal immigration, racism, poverty, gambling and poor housing.
Mornings on the backside of Thoroughbred racetracks are invariably beautiful; misty, still, the sun rising over the galloping horses, steam rising as they sweat...While photographing near the track housing, a man emerged from his bedroom, looked at me, my camera and then grabbed my arm. He led me towards his room, opened the door and said, “Look at this shit.” I paused for a moment. He pushed me in the room, “What the hell you waitin’ for? Take a picture of this squalor, show the whole damn world how we have to live.” Another man shouted from outside, “This ain’t that bad! We only got roaches here at Saratoga, them shacks at Belmont got wharf rats.” As I was taking photos he told me about living on the backside, “I came to Saratoga on a 2 am bus lookin’ for a job. I got here and they wouldn't let me in even though I got my track pass from last year. I kept beggin’ them to just let me put my bags down. I mean fuck, the other guys on the bus with me weren’t even legal [immigrants] they just snuck in the back. The guard let me in after awhile and put me in a room with nothin’ in it just a concrete floor. So I went out and found a bench to sleep on ‘til I got a job. You can't believe the shit that gets thrown at you workin’ on the track.” He paused for a moment. “You wanna know what it’s like back here? I just got home, ate two ears of corn I got from a truck this morning. That’s dinner. It hurts to tell this.” I asked him if he ever tried to leave the track, he laughed at me and said, “As my Grandma always told me, once you get racehorse piss on you, you ain’t never gonna get it off.” His face hardened quickly, “We live our lives like pennies in a jar what are we savin’ for? I’m nothin’ and that’s what I’ve become through the years and the track. I’ve lost my way, I’m not who I was; like a summer rose, a victim of the fall but with no sign of summer comin’ soon.”
Lili Holzer-Glier graduated from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in 2010 with a BFA in photography, and received her master's degree in digital media from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2012. Clients include Vogue, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Huffington Post, Narratively, Thirteen, Quartz, The Wilson Quarterly, Vice and The Vera Institute of Justice. Her first book, Rockabye was published in 2015 by Daylight Books. She is one of the winners of American Photography 32 and American Photography 33.