Jim Hausske can trace his love for photography back to when he was just a little tyke, growing up in south Seattle.
Starting about age 5, he would bring his Kodak Brownie camera down to Lake Washington every summer to take photos of the hydroplane races. As time went on, he picked up a few tips from his grandfather and a friend in the Boy Scouts.
After years of taking portraits and doing nature photography, Hausske — a Wide Hollow Elementary School teacher for 33 years — transitioned his talents into doing more action photography.
By the late 1990s, he had become the official photographer for the Yakima Speedway and was even recruited to travel around the country with the professional circuit (he declined).
He later returned to the shores of Lake Washington, serving as an official Seafair photographer for years, and he also got involved with the Tri-Cities’ annual hydroplane races, producing photos for the annual event guide.
But a traveling career never much interested Hausske. As an educator and family man, he preferred to focus his efforts on serving the community.
“I used to coach sports at Wide Hollow and I would take photos of the kids there,” said Hausske, now 71. “Then some folks at the high school (West Valley) started asking me if I would do some senior portraits. The interest grew, and I eventually started taking senior pictures for kids all over the Valley.”
Word got around, and before long, Hausske and his wife, Diane, were fulfilling requests from as far away as Seattle, Wenatchee and the Tri-Cities. They also worked with families from Toppenish to Selah, Wapato to East Valley and all points in between.
“We were still teaching, so it was hard to meet the demand at times,” he said. “People from all over the place would be calling us. Through our connections with racing, Boy Scouts and the schools, the business really got going.”
Though Hausske has never considered himself a true professional photographer, he concedes that his business connections eventually elevated his status to “semi-professional.”
He works with some of the finest equipment available and he’s mentored a number of other aspiring photographers over the years, including his children, Ron and Amy.
Ron Hausske used to help out his dad at the Speedway, while Amy Hausske has become an established wedding photographer.
“I would get what I could out of the equipment and then pass it on to my kids,” Jim Hausske said. “I was always happy to loan it out to friends or students. When people ask me to help, I do whatever I can.”
Passion For Community
The impact Hausske has made on the local community over the years is difficult to measure.
His decades of service at Wide Hollow and with the Boy Scouts have lifted up hundreds of young people, while his penchant for photography has brightened the lives of countless others.
That’s because his work is much more than a commercial venture. Hausske’s photography is more about passion than business.
“I don’t need the money,” he said. “My wife and I are both retired teachers and I also served in the Air Force. What we want to do is make life better for the kids and their families. It’s our gift to the community.”
Hausske’s closest connections over the years have been with the student athletes at West Valley High School, Yakima Valley College and his alma mater, Rainier Beach High School in Seattle.
Most of his attention is focused on the basketball programs, though he often attends other events when time allows.
He takes action photos and portraits of the athletes throughout the season, and he keeps an album of the boys and girls programs for the players to view any time they want.
“The players can look at the album anytime and they’re always excited to see if their picture made it in there,” Hausske said. “I tell them to take pictures of it with their cellphones so they can share it with their friends and family who may not be in Yakima.”
At the end of the season, the Hausskes put together packages for all of the graduating seniors (sophomores at YVC), each featuring an 8-by-10-inch framed picture with a personal message.
The Hausskes dedicate hours upon hours of their time to provide this unique service to the athletes every year, and their hard work is always repaid with the appreciation they receive from the athletes.
“Our real passion is for community and for young people, so that’s why we do it,” Hausske said. “I don’t know what I would be doing if it weren’t for this. I want to be out taking photos and talking with people, not sitting in a rocking chair. That’s why you see me out there — I truly love what I do.”
Easing Into Retirement
The Hausskes are both coping with a number of health-related issues, so going to events is something they always look forward to.
Diane Hausske is battling cancer and Jim Hausske has had to undergo a series of surgeries on his arms, legs and hips. That’s why you’ll often see him sitting in a wheelchair courtside while he’s taking photos.
“I can’t stand for long periods, so that’s why I take most of my photos sitting down,” he said. “I’ve had every part of my body operated on, but that doesn’t stop me.”
Hausske was honored late last year when the new Yakima SunKings organization approached him about becoming their official photographer.
Naturally, he was pretty excited about the opportunity. But he offered one condition: a courtside pass for his wife to attend the games with him.
“Being able to work with such a great group of young people has been the highlight for me, but it’s also been great entertainment for my wife and I,” Hausske said. “The payment, for me, is getting my wife out of the house. But it also feeds my passion for action photography.”
Attending SunKings games has been great, he says, but as with most things, his true enjoyment comes from interacting with the players.
“It’s just a wonderful group of young men, and I’ve been fortunate to go to their practices and get to know the guys,” he said. “They’re really neat people — the whole organization, really.”
As part of his role as the official photographer, Hausske has helped the team decorate its headquarters with a number of 16-by-20-inch action photos. He’s also produced some 8-by-10s for the players. That’s just what Hausske does — he builds other people up.
“My goal is to spread a positive message, no matter where you are in life,” he said. “It’s fun for me to be around young people because they breathe life into me and my family. I’ve been in a nursing home twice, and I’ve seen the other side. So I truly appreciate every chance I have to continue my positive mission in life.”