Updated on 05/30/2012 6:26PM

Michael J. Marten, Eclipse Award photographer, is dead at 54

Michael J. Marten
The 1999 Eclipse Award photo: Jockey Frankie Dettori dismounts Daylami after winning the Breeders' Cup Turf at Gulfstream Park. Below right, the 1995 Eclipse Award photo: Thunder Gulch and Gary Stevens break from the gate in the Travers Stakes.

Michael J. Marten, an award-winning photographer whose specialty was Thoroughbred horse racing, died Monday night near his home in Del Mar, Calif. He was 54.

Joanne Nor, his longtime companion, said Tuesday that Marten had been in hospice care and had been suffering from cancer, which was diagnosed last fall.

Marten worked nearly a decade as a freelancer for the Daily Racing Form and was also a photographer for Horsephotos.com. Marten’s work captured both the power and beauty of competition at the races in the afternoon and the charm of life around the barns in the morning.

He was twice selected as the Eclipse Award winner for photography in Thoroughbred racing. In the 1995 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, Marten was positioned along the outside rail and zoomed in on Thunder Gulch, the eventual winner, as the colt leaped out of the starting gate beneath jockey Gary Stevens. Marten won again in 1999, this time for capturing Frankie Dettori’s trademark flying dismount after the jockey won the Breeders’ Cup Turf aboard Daylami at Gulfstream Park.

Thunder GulchMarten was born Feb. 11, 1958, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. His family moved to New York City and settled in the Rosedale section of Queens. He attended the Germaine school of photography and worked in a variety of sports photography jobs, including for the New York Mets, the New York Rangers, and the MSG Network. He earned national recognition when he photographed the American Greco-Roman wrestler Jeff Blatnick after Blatnick won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. One of Marten’s pictures of Blatnick, depicting the wrestler in a prayerlike moment after winning, was picked up by Life Magazine.

Arrangements for a funeral service were not complete as of Tuesday. A memorial service will be held during the summer race meet at Del Mar.

missy - More than 1 year ago
Mike, I will always love you and your photography speaks for itself. You lived life to its fullest.
Spencer Tulis More than 1 year ago
thank you MJM for being one of my mentors and for the fun times all those saratoga summers. peace. spencer
Thoroughbred Owners More than 1 year ago
I am so sad to hear the news. Mike was a true artist who had an amazing talent for composition in his photos. I have been a huge fan of his for years and will miss him greatly. Rest in Peace, Mike.
Dennis Hogan More than 1 year ago
So saddened by this news. One could read books or take classes, but you'd learn more about sports photography by simply spending 20 minutes with Michael. MJM had a boundless talent and relentless spirit for capturing the image. His world-class portfolio is a testament to the beauty and excitement of Thoroughbred racing. While we are all fans of racing, I counted myself as a fan of MJM. Sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Margaret Weisenseel More than 1 year ago
Very sorry to hear of Michaels passing. He was our cousin and will be greatly missed. I have the first picture he took of a horse and jockey, it's my daughter at age two riding her rocking horse. RIP MICHAEL Jim & Margaret
Lavinia More than 1 year ago
Last night I was just wondering what had become of Michael, and saw that he had been doing some show shots, so this is a shock. Although aware he had relocated to the West Coast some time ago, I would still see him occasionally on the East Coast. He was one of the first modern Equine Photographers to impress me. I always enjoyed chatting with him, whether at Aqueduct, Belmont or Saratoga. He had a good eye, and was undoubtedly an influence on current race track photography. He will be missed. Lynn M. Grabowski