In an era before motor drives, before massive telephoto lenses, Louis Klemantaski (1912-2001) produced some of the finest racing photographs ever taken, thanks to an artist's eye and a racer's heart. Louis Klemantaski is the true inheritor of Jacques-Henri Lartigue who pioneered the art of photography of moving objects in the early 1900's. Klemantaski's work, which spans the years from 1936 to 1974, represents the aesthetic pinnacle of this technique. For five years in the mid-1950ís he rode as passenger in the Mille Miglia, the most famous of all the open road races, which resulted in some of the most dramatic photography ever taken. He has authored over a dozen books of his work which has also appeared in hundreds of other publications and numerous exhibits.
Most of his motorsports photographs are in Black and White, though he has distinguished color works as well. His long and active career spanned from 1936-1974. There are some 60,000 Klemantaski images known to be catalogued. A former race driver and mechanic himself, Klemantaski wasn't content to sit on the sidelines. He shot what may be the only photograph of a checkered flag taken from inside the winning car, having ridden the entire Tour of Sicily(Giro di Sicilia)Sicily; April 8, 1956 race in driver Peter Collins's Ferrari 857S. In the view of many experts, Louis Klemantaski, who died on June 24, 2001, was the greatest motor racing photographer of all time.
Below is an account, on his death, by GrandPrix.com:
The legendary motor racing photographer Louis Klemantaski has died at the age of 89.
Beginning his career before the outbreak of World War 2 his images of such legends as Caracciola and Nuvolari were ground-breaking in their composition and style, making him rightly the most famous lensman of the age. He was also an accomplished driver himself, competing at Brooklands and befriending the likes of George Abecassis and Louis Chiron.
After the war, during which Klemantaski served on the fringes of the espionage community putting his photographic skills to use 'capturing' the latest technical developments, Klemantaski returned to motor racing to immortalize the days of Ascari, Fangio and Moss.
It was with Ferrari that Klemantaski will be closest associated following his friendship with works drivers Peter Collins and Alfonso di Portago. Klemantaski in fact competed with Collins on the Mille Miglia, finishing second in 1956, and it was the deaths of both di Portago and Collins at the wheel that finally convinced him to turn his back on the sport.
The Klemantaski Collection was sold in 1982, and are one of the most popular and enduring forms of motoring art available today, being reproduced in a plethora of books and prints. The man himself was a regular visitor to historic motor racing events and will be much missed by the sport.
*(Courtesy of the Klemantaski Collection website and Motortrend website)