Renowned equine photographer, Auburn resident dead at 57; services Saturday

Duane Hamamura, 57, was an award-winning photographer, Thoroughbred owner and friend to many. - Courtesy photo/Emerald Downs
Duane Hamamura, 57, was an award-winning photographer, Thoroughbred owner and friend to many.
— image credit: Courtesy photo/Emerald Downs

Duane Hamamura, for more than three decades one of the most prominent equine photographers in the state, died suddenly Saturday evening at home of heart failure.

Hamamura, a lifelong Auburn resident, was 57 years old.

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, editor of the Auburn Reporter. 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. “But his passion was Thoroughbreds.”

A fixture at Emerald Downs, both front-side and stable area, Hamamura maintained perhaps the region's most extensive archive of Thoroughbred racing photos and videos, a treasure-trove of history and information that he selflessly 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 rare 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, and 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.”

Sisters Joyce Hamamura and Sharon Harris, and mother Ritsuko survive Hamamura. Services are 4 p.m. Saturday at the White River Buddhist Temple, 3625 Auburn Way North in Auburn.

Emerald Downs plans to honor the memory of Duane Hamamura with a race during the 2011 meeting.

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