I was thrilled when Matt Moyer and Amy Toensing, a husband-and-wife team of photographers, agreed to shoot our story on Saratoga Springs. It seemed especially appropriate when I learned that it would be a bit of a homecoming for Matt—his college internship was at a local paper where he had covered Saratoga, including the racetrack. He was curious to see how the town had changed in the intervening years.
We decided that our article would focus on the summer “season” in Saratoga, when the town springs to life with cultural performances, galas, polo matches, and, most importantly, horse racing at the Saratoga Race Course. As I edited the photos, it became clear that the season included many long-standing traditions, among them ladies wearing hats at the races and parties. Some hats are enormous and bold and demand to be noticed, while others are demure and understated. This tradition of fancy hats and racing dates back to the earliest days of the Royal Ascot, memorably depicted in My Fair Lady, when Eliza Doolittle makes her high-society debut at the races.
Matt artfully captured the scene as Saratoga socialites gathered for the Sizzling Hot Pink Saratoga Hat Luncheon, a fundraiser held on Fabulous Fillies Day. Every summer this special day celebrates women and their contributions to the thoroughbred industry. At first glance, the jewelry, the clothing, and the eye-catching array of fancy hats suggest that this is a well-heeled crowd, and their expressions and interactions reveal that they have totally embraced the scene and are savoring the day. Your eye is instantly drawn to the woman in the center wearing an outrageously big pink satin hat that just about obscures her view. In addition, the bottle of champagne on the table, the laughing woman leaning in from the left, and the woman in the pink-and-black cowboy hat touching her friend’s arm all seem to direct your gaze to that same gigantic hat. Matt has placed the viewer in the middle of the scene, so you feel like you’re sitting at the table and listening to the conversations going on around you. The photo is nicely composed so the center of attention is framed by the young girl wearing a dainty fascinator, the two pairs of women chatting in the background, and the two blond women on the left of the frame.
When I saw this photo, I instantly realized, This is it! To me, this photo sums up the season—the sparkling social scene, the wealth, and the exuberant display of fancy hats.
Carol Enquist is a senior photo editor for Traveler magazine. See more photographs by Matt Moyer and Amy Toensing in the Traveler photo gallery Summer in Saratoga.