Skip to main content

Photographer marks 20 years at the Kentucky Derby

By Daphne Sashin, CNN
updated 11:36 AM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
"Out of all the hat photos I have taken, this is my favorite," photographer <a href='http://ireport.cnn.com/people/JohnMcGraw'>John McGraw</a> said. The 2014 Kentucky Derby will mark his 20th year in attendance. You can bet McGraw will be hat-tipping the boldest hat aficionados by taking their photos. "Out of all the hat photos I have taken, this is my favorite," photographer John McGraw said. The 2014 Kentucky Derby will mark his 20th year in attendance. You can bet McGraw will be hat-tipping the boldest hat aficionados by taking their photos.
HIDE CAPTION
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
It's all about the hats
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Kentucky Derby is held the first Saturday in May
  • Photographer John McGraw has been going for 20 years
  • The hats are the big draw, he says
  • Got a great Derby hat photo? Send it to iReport.

(CNN) -- Through everything in John McGraw's life during the past two decades, there has been one constant: He knows he will be in the infield of Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

McGraw, a photographer and CNN iReporter from East Lansing, Michigan, went to his first Kentucky Derby when he was 20, tagging along with some older friends who were really into horses. They drove down for the day -- and he was hooked.

"I also like to gamble, but it turned into more than just that," said McGraw, 39. "I just fell in love with the atmosphere."

Photographer John McGraw occasionally wears a top hat to the Kentucky Derby.
Photographer John McGraw occasionally wears a top hat to the Kentucky Derby.

Early on, McGraw was just focused on having a good time. In the past few years, he has become passionate about still photography and trains his camera on the Derby's biggest attraction, aside from the horses: the hats.

Jockey cam: Horse racing on dirt

How the 1% roll at the Kentucky Derby

The 2014 event will be McGraw's 20th Kentucky Derby in a row. Most years, he attends the races with a group of 10 to 30 people and camps out 20 minutes south of Louisville.

He'll be among upward of 70,000 fans in the infield, which the Derby's official website says is "an experience of acceptable excess and is forgivably risque." Fans with a little more money to spend who want a better view buy tickets to the grandstand, clubhouse or pricier seats.

"I do take photos of the grandstands and stuff like that, but in general, the hats, something draws me to them," he said. "It reminds me of a time gone by. When you look at old photos of the early 1900s, all the women wore hats, and all the guys wore hats as well."

Got a great Derby hat photo? Send it to iReport!

CNN's Christina Zdanowicz contributed to this story.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT