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LOUIS KLEMANTASKI produced fine photography of the greatest eras of motorsport.
The period 1935 – 1939 had Tazio Nuvolari contesting (and finally joining) the Third-Reich-sponsored mights of Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz.
The post-war years 1946 – 1957 were when many of us first savored international motorsports. Ferrari and Jaguar emerged as combatants and Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio bested all in his fabled Maserati drives.
The years 1958 – 1967 found motorsports increasingly regulated (sanitized?). But it evolved with the advent of British constructors dominating Formula One. Louis Klemantaski and his cameras were there throughout.
Klemantaski was born to wealthy parents living in Manchuria. His Dutch father (with Polish roots dating back to the Napoleonic era) was in the Willys-Overland auto business there; his mother was Russian. At age 16, Louis traveled to England, in part on the Trans-Siberian Railway, to continue his education there.
In the 1930s, Klemantaski raced cars at Brooklands. For other lore of this British race circuit, see “Brooklands Double-Twelve,” http://wp.me/p2ETap-sk.
During this time, Klemantaski helped support his own racing by selling motorsports photos to publications and fellow competitors.
During World War II, Klemantaski’s photographic talents were employed in the British Admiralty’s Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. Among other projects, he contributed to development of the bouncing bomb renowned for its use with RAF Lancaster “Dam Busters.”
After the war, Klemantaski combined portrait photography (of the likes of Igor Stravinski) with automaker assignments. Both activities funded his true vocation, photographing motorsports throughout Europe.
Today’s shooters of digital photography can appreciate Klemantaski’s immense skill in the days of cameras sans motor drives. Also, given his proximity to the action, ponder his concentration (and bravery).
Klemantaski and his cameras did more than simply spectate. He navigated three Monte Carlo rallies and five Mille Miglia road races, four of them with friend and Ferrari driver Peter Collins.
Collins and Klemantaski finished 2nd in the 1956 Mille Miglia; but for a failed axle, they almost won in 1957, the race’s last running.
The book contains many images that are new to me. A dramatic one from 1960 Monaco shows a motor racing hero of mine, Innes Ireland, valiantly pushing his Lotus after it failed halfway up the hill at Beau Rivage.
Innes reasoned that if he pushed the car to the top at Casino, he could then coast downhill back to sea level and continue pushing it to the checkered flag. He did so to finish 9th. There’s an equally dramatic video showing part of this at http://goo.gl/EPYNFC.
Others of the Klemantaski images are personality shots of a lighthearted sort. I especially enjoy the following.
All in all, this book is a wonderful selection of 300 of Klemantaski’s marvelous photos. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com. 2015