Russ Lake Hometown: North Prairie
Russ Lake’s career as a nationally recognized auto racing photographer began through his father Ted Lake’s involvement with auto racing. Ted Lake was affiliated with racing at places such as Wisconsin State Fair Park and Indianapolis, as well as racing series like AAA and USAC. Russ traveled to many of the races with his father, but eventually grew tired of being just “Ted Lake’s Kid.” So, to establish his own identity, with the help of legendary auto racing photographer Armin “Army” Krueger, Russ embarked on a career as a photographer in 1950 at the age of 14.
Since that time, Russ has covered many racing events with his camera and has produced over a million negatives and digital images. He has had photos published in many racing publications, books, daily newspapers and websites. Russ has been as important as any participant on the local race tracks in his long career, and has also covered many national racing series including NASCAR, USAC, ASA and ARTGO. He has been credentialed for the Indianapolis 500 since 1963 and the Daytona 500 since 1992, meeting many of racing’s biggest stars while capturing the thrill of victory and the agony of tragedy through his lens.
OnMilwaukee.com featured Russ Lake on May 31, 2007 in an article writen by David Linden.
Russ himself was a victim of a racing accident when he suffered a shattered hip in a pace car accident at the start of the 1971 “Indy 500.” He was hospitalized for six weeks and relegated to crutches for six months. The incident did not deter Russ from returning to do what he loved to do, taking photos at the track.
In addition to his photo work, Russ founded Wisconsin Motorsports Charities, Inc. The organization conducted sixteen auto racing charity banquets, raising a total of $451,000 for Ranch Community Services of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, a facility for development- tally disabled adults where Russ’ son was a client. In 2011, Russ completed his sixty-first year of photo- graphing race cars, with no plans to retire. Many of his life-long works will be published in a book he is compiling, to be titled, “Through the Lens of Russ Lake.”
Russ was inducted into the Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame in 2011.