Ann Switalski and Lou Hodges Jr.
Since 2005, photographer Lou Hodges, Jr. has captured the excitement and beauty of horse racing at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La. On the final day of the 2022 Thoroughbred racing season, he will officially pass the baton to his highly respected assistant Ann Switalski.
Lou Hodges, Jr. served as track photographer at several racetracks, including Rockingham Park, Washington Park and Arlington Park. His father, Lou Hodges was the official photographer at Fair Grounds in New Orleans beginning in 1948, before his son took over in 1976.
In addition to being the official photographer at Fair Grounds, Hodges Photography also has the contract at Louisiana Downs.
Ann McKnight Switalski was born in Saginaw, Mich. She arrived in Louisiana in 2003 and stayed after her husband retired from the military. An avid equestrienne, she began taking photos of morning works and soon realized that an investment in a quality camera was essential. Hodges offered her an opportunity to shoot some Super Derby action and hired her in 2016.
“I was very fortunate to find Ann,” explained Hodges. “She was working for a veterinarian on the backside and was interested in photography. I met with her and noticed right away that she was very creative and asked her to come to work.”
Color and clarity are two of the elements that are evident in the work of Hodges Photography.
“Our technique for getting perfect race shots is to use telephoto lenses to have tight shots,” said Hodges. “We are always looking for different angles and different compositions that will make someone who views the image look twice.”
With no previous background in photography, Switalski realized she had a lot to learn, and with the expert guidance of Hodges, she jumped right in.
“Lou made sure I understood that there is a very limited time to get the shots we need: the stretch, wire and comeback,” said Switalski. “He taught me the importance of getting the horse in front to allow room for editing.”
Switalski enjoys the people involved in both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing and getting memorable shots of jockeys as they jog back after a tough finish.
“Maria Baca gave me a very nice compliment,” said Switalski. “She said that no one takes photos of the riders like I do and that her mother loves them!”
Switalski, lives in Keithville, La., with her husband, Tony, and sons Sam and Nathan. They share their home with three goats, two ducks, five cats and two horses, including Maverick Impression, an Appaloosa who is showing promise as a novice jumper.
She looks forward to the next chapter and is grateful for the support of her family as well as her Louisiana Downs assistant, Dawn Thomas.
On the final day of the 2022 racing season, Louisiana Downs officials honored Hodges for his service and presented him with a plaque thanking him for his excellence.
“Hodges Photography has been an integral part of the history of Louisiana Downs,” said Kevin Preston, the track’s owner and president. “We are grateful for the professionalism of Lou Hodges and the images that will remain with us forever. Ann is greatly admired by our horsemen and everyone in our organization. We know she will do an excellent job!”
The tribute meant a great deal to the inimitable photographer, who is nowhere near retiring and looks forward to the upcoming live racing season at Fair Grounds. He wishes all the best to Switalski and is confident that the transition will be seamless.
“Ann will do a great job,” stated Hodges. “I am hoping to come back, possibly for the Super Derby, but look forward to traveling with my wife, Leslie, next summer.”
Switalski has not decided on the official name on her contract with Louisiana Downs, but can be reached at [email protected].