Hamamura, Northwest Photographer, Dies at 57

Photographer was fixture on the front and back sides of Emerald Downs

Emerald Downs plans to name a race during its 2011 meet in honor of Duane Hamamura, for over three decades one of the most prominent equine photographers in Washington state who died suddenly Jan. 29 at home of natural causes.

Hamamura, a lifelong Auburn resident, was 57.

A 1971 graduate of Auburn High School who studied photography at Green River Community College, Hamamura was a longtime photographer at the Valley Daily News in Kent, where he was a perennial award-winning photographer, according to colleague Mark Klaas. Hamamura also worked as a photographer at the old Auburn Globe and as a photo technician for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

“He had a Rolodex for a mind, was a very resourceful man and was a great action photographer,” Klaas said in a statement released through Emerald Downs. “But his passion was Thoroughbreds.”

A fixture at Emerald Downs, both front-side and stable area, Hamamura maintained a treasure-trove of Thoroughbred racing and photos that he shared with horsemen, friends and media.

“Duane’s outstanding sports photography for over 30 years was exceeded only by his warmth and humility as a person,” said Emerald Downs director of publicity Joe Withee. “Few realize the depth of his contributions to the Thoroughbred industry through photography, archival data, technological aide, horse ownership, and donations of his time and efforts.”

Hamamura was a two-time recipient (1983 and 2000) of the Mark Kaufman Media Award for excellence in continuing coverage of racing and breeding in the state of Washington. He dabbled in Thoroughbred ownership, usually maintaining a small stable with close friends Joe and Kari Toye. Together they campaigned Tajun, the 1996 top claimer at Emerald Downs.

“It’s a shock, he was like family to us,” Joe Toye said. “Racing has lost a very good friend and promoter. Duane quietly went about promoting the sport of horse racing.”

Services are pending.