Visual Arts

Keeneland acquires collection of California photographer Katey Barrett

Keeneland Library has acquired a collection of photographs from pioneering Southern California equine photographer Katey Barrett.

The material, which includes 12,000 color slides, plus print photographs and racetrack programs, will expand the library's already extensive documentation on horse racing.

"Katey is a true pioneer in Turf photography, and her work is a great blend of artistry and documentation," Keeneland Library director Becky Ryder said. "The material spans the 1970s to the present and picks up after the Keeneland Library's other photography collections end. It is the library's first collection of color photography and our first that comprehensively documents West Coast racing."

In a statement, Barrett said of the project, "I'm so happy because I know the work will be archived and will be taken care of."

Now in her early 80s, Barrett grew up in Hibbing, Minn., and after college moved to Hollywood with an eye on show business, according to a news release from Keeneland. According to IMDB, she appeared in a number of movies and on TV in the 1950s and 1960s, including episodes of My Three Sons, Bonanza and Dragnet, and in the movie The Shakiest Gun in the West.

Her interest in photography came while working as a production assistant on Mission Impossible. She bought an inexpensive 35mm camera from Sears. Soon she was doing freelance shoots for her Hollywood friends. TV producer and racing enthusiast Ed Friendly introduced her to Santa Anita. The unique downhill turf course would become one of her favorite subjects. Another favorite: wild horses. She photographs them for the Wild Horse Sanctuary calendars.

Barrett became known for her cinematic photographs that captured the movement, power and beauty of the horse, according to Keeneland Library.

She shot many photographs of the legendary racehorse John Henry, and she often created unique photos of horses and track life using an infrared technique.

In the introduction to Barrett's book, The Light Touch, writer Jay Hovdey said her work pays homage to directors John Ford, Stanley Kubrick, John Huston and Orson Welles.

"What it comes down to this is: Katey Barrett is a painter in photographer's drag," Hovdey wrote. "Instead of oils, inks and charcoal, her paint comes from sunlight etching a latent image that only Katey Barrett sees."

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