A photo finish

Local horse photographer wins award

Hoboken native Michael Lisa has been the official photographer at the Meadowlands Racetrack for the last 10 years. Although photographing racehorses is a “dream job” for the Montville resident, last month, his job got a little sweeter when he won the prestigious International Media Award 2009 for the best still photograph of the year.
The winning photograph was entitled, “Brian Sears Gathers His Thoughts.” It was a photo of the famed jockey Brian Sears walking off the track after a muddy race.
“I was actually near the back stretch,” Lisa said last week, “where the horses come on and off the track. It had just rained and was a real muddy night. These drives just get caked with mud after a race.”
Lisa said that he was lucky to catch Sears at the right place at the right time.


“Photography is like having a blank canvas.” – Michael Lisa

“He’s our leading driver,” said Lisa of Sears. “He’s the man down at the Meadowlands, so I knew the shot was good. But, I kind of had a feeling about that particular shot. It was exactly what I was looking for with that look on his face and that whole mood.”
Lisa was one of only two North Americans to win the prestigious award this year.
But the International Media Award wasn’t his first award. Back in 2004, Lisa was voted the best racetrack photographer in the nation.
“That was a pretty crazy night,” Lisa said about the night he took the award-winning photograph in 2004. “They had cancelled all the races that evening, and I was leaving the rack when I saw a couple of horses still roaming around. I knew it was the perfect opportunity because the track was so quiet, and the lighting was low. You know when the snow is coming down, you get that quiteness – it was pretty dramatic.”
After winning this year’s award, Lisa said he was honored when he heard the news. “It’s nice to know that your work is appreciated,” Lisa said. “That someone is noticing.”

More than just horses

Lisa was born and raised in Hoboken before moving to Montville four years ago, and said that he will always feel a part of the mile-square city. In fact, Lisa has been the photographer for the Hoboken Little League since 1999, and two of his uncles, Jimmy and Bobby Lisa, are in both the Hoboken and Hudson County’s Football Hall of Fame.
“I love sports, and watching the games,” Lisa said. “It’s in my family.”
Lisa documents the entire season for each baseball team in the Little League program and presents the teams with end-of-the-year collages.
“I like to do it for the kids,” Lisa said, who also shoots for the Farleigh Dickinson baseball team. “I still have a lot of friends in Hoboken. But most of all I just love what I do. Photography is like having a blank canvas. It’s an endless exercise in coming up with creative ideas.”
With all the prestige Lisa has been receiving lately, he made sure to acknowledge the hard work of his staff.
“I’m really grateful to have a great staff,” Lisa said. “Occasionally, I will want to go out and do something more artistic, and my staff is right there for me doing the blue-collar stuff. They’re like the iron horse.”
Sean Allocca can be reached at editorial@hudsonreporter.com


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