Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Tale of Two Derbys

This year I covered the 140th Kentucky Derby for Bloomberg News. It was an enjoyable change of pace to focus on the business side of things. As I wandered Churchill Downs for two days something struck me. From the ultra rich to the indebted gambling addict, all types turn out for the big day. It’s quintessential Kentucky. Horses, betting, big hats and bourbon. From the billionaires on the grandstand balcony, to the common man packed in the sweaty infield, there’s a place for everyone. Take a quick stroll under the grandstand on Derby morning and you’re sure to brush shoulders with horse lovers, socialites, racing fans, gamblers, millionaires, revelers, curious culture seekers, and drunk college students. Indeed, the Kentucky Derby is a curious cross-section of class and culture. Below are some photos from Derby weekend in diptych form.

Racegoers wear Derby hats at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Appalachia for The Washington Post

Earlier this year I traveled to Appalachia to photograph the effect of The Affordable Care Act/Obamacare on residents of Breathitt County in Eastern Kentucky. Most of the people I encountered received coverage under the medicaid expansion portion of Obamamcare. Like much of Appalachia, Breathitt County has suffered from the decline of the coal industry in addition to the nationwide economic downturn.

Uninsured individuals seek coverage through The Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," in Appalachia
Jeff Fletcher, 52, smokes a cigarette alongside his dogs Snoopy (left) and Walter (right) after standing for portrait near his mobile home on Thursday, November 21, 2013 in Jackson, Ky. Fletcher, an uninsured resident of Breathitt County, was able to enroll in the Affordable Care Act earlier in the day through Kentucky's health exchange. Luke Sharrett for The Washington Post


Food Stamps for The New York Times

Last summer I spent a few days photographing food stamp recipients and visiting a local food bank in the Western Tennessee town of Dyersburg. The number of citizens on public assistance has swelled in recent years due to the recession and sluggish economic rebound. Cuts to the food stamp program have been floated as the nation's lawmakers in Congress struggle to strike a balance between domestic spending and the debt. 

Food stamp recipient Tarnisha Adams sits with her granddaughter Callee in Dyersburg, Tenn. on Thursday, August 15, 2013. Adams, who is trying to feed and pay her three boys’ way through community college, lost her job as a rump skinner in a hog rendering plant after finding out she was seriously ill with heart, lung, and kidney problems. That evening she prepared a large pasta dish for dinner in hopes that it would feed her family for the next 3 days. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times


Public Defenders for The New York Times

In January I traveled to Missouri and spent a day shadowing the Public Defenders office of the St. Louis County Justice Department. Most public defense lawyers are notoriously overworked and underpaid in relation to their colleagues in the private sector. Those that I met in St. Louis were no exception. Already averaging around 10 different hearings per day, public defenders in St. Louis are worried they don't have the proper time and resources to devote to each case.

Case files belonging to Public Defender Warren Popp are pictured before a probation hearing in the court room of the Hon. Michael T. Jamison of the 21st Judicial Circuit Court at the the St. Louis County Court Building in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Public defenders in St. Louis are struggling to keep up with mounting case loads. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.


Alison Lundergan Grimes for The New York Times

Mitch McConnell has been the Senior Senator from Kentucky for as long as some Kentuckians can remember. The ranking Republican in the Senate and a cornerstone of the beltway Republican establishment, Mitch McConnell has long been unbeatable in the political arena. This year, however, he faces both a primary challenge from Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin, and a challenge in the general election from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. I attended one of Mrs. Grimes’ campaign events earlier this year for The New York Times. 

Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes practices her stump speech word-for-word before a campaign event at the Center for African-American Heritage in Louisville, Ky. on Thursday, February 6, 2014. Grimes plans to run against Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the upcoming 2014 midterm election. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.


Obamacare for The New York Times

By most all accounts, the implementation of The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, last Fall was none too pretty. Uninsured individuals seeking access to Government healthcare exchanges were greeted with a completely dysfunctional website, inept tech support, and bureaucrats who were completely caught off guard by the so-called “glitches.” The roll out has been labeled “disastrous” and “embarrassing” by even Democratic pundits and politicians. Yet surprisingly for the state of Kentucky, the ACA rollout went relatively smooth. The following photos are part of a long-term healthcare project by The New York Times focusing on Kentucky’s healthcare exchange, Kynect, and it’s effect on patients and doctors.

Maintenance supervisor Troy Taylor replaces ceiling tiles behind a desk where Kentucky healthcare officials will be distributing literature on the first day of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville, Ky. on Tuesday, October 1, 2013. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.