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.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Made in America

Lately I've been doing freelance work covering business and industry for Bloomberg News. It's been a real treat to see how everything from electricity to donuts is made.

Airstream - Jackson Center, Ohio


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Kentucky's Leaves of Gold

Kentucky is a state with a rich agricultural heritage. Since it's founding in June of 1792, the Commonwealth's vast natural resources have supported everything from the world's finest bourbon distilleries to champion thoroughbred racehorses. This fall I was able to explore Kentucky's rich tradition of tobacco farming. I was captivated by the beauty of the leaves and fascinated by the traditional harvest and curing processes that have remained unchanged for centuries. I was also blown away by the work ethic of the migrant workers who performed the heavy labor of the harvest. Special thanks to local farmer Ray Tucker for allowing me unfettered access to his fields and tobacco barns.

Migrant worker Victor Parra of Mexico cuts Burley tobacco grown by Tucker Farms in Finchville, Ky. before hanging the leaves in barns to begin their six week curing process on the morning of Monday, September 9, 2013. The migrant workers participate in the U.S. Department of Labor's H-2A temporary agricultural program which allows agricultural employers to hire temporary help for seasonal work. Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images


Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Lost Boys - Jacob Mach

Earlier this year I began work on a long-term assignment for The New York Times Magazine. Over the course of a few months I got to know Jacob Mach, a Sudanese refugee who had settled in Atlanta, Ga. in 2001. Jacob is one of “The Lost Boys” who fled the Sudanese Civil War in the 1990’s. He and a group of boys from his village escaped genocide by fleeing into the African bush with little more than the clothes on their backs. Those who survived being chased by rebel fighters, crocodiles, and lions settled in a Kenyan refugee camp for the next ten years. Along with nearly 3,000 other lost boys, Jacob resettled in The United States through a State Department program. After gaining American citizenship and completing his undergrad in criminal justice at Georgia State, Jacob set out to become the first Lost Boy to work as a Law Enforcement Officer in the United States. It was amazing to witness Jacob's determination and faith in Jesus that allowed him to overcome the obstacles and setbacks along his journey in America. Read the story and watch the documentary here.

Sudanese Lost Boy Jacob Mach sits for a portrait on the front steps of his Habitat for Humanity house in Southeast Atlanta, Ga. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times Magazine


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Coming Home - Fort Knox

Last month I covered the return of 250 soldiers from Afghanistan to Fort Knox, Ky. for Getty Images. Troop returns are a lot of fun to photograph, though capturing the fleeting moments and gathering accurate caption information can be hectic and stressful as a photojournalist. There's something about seeing soldiers return from war and reunite with their families that resonates deeply inside me. Witnessing so many joyous reunions in a short period of time often causes tears of my own to well up and block my viewfinder. Still, I feel a tinge of sadness in my heart as I long for the reunion I never had with my cousin, Pfc. David H. Sharrett. Welcome home, troops.

Rachel Wolfston and her 2-year-old daughter Alexia wait to greet Spc. Joshua Wilson of the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a homecoming ceremony in the Natcher Physical Fitness Center on Fort Knox in the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 20, 2013 in Fort Knox, Ky. About 250 soldiers from 3rd Brigade returned to Fort Knox after a nine-month combat deployment working alongside Afghan military and police forces in Afghanistan's Zabul Province. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)