Louis Klemantaski

Monday 12th February 1912

Born on this day, Louis Klemantaski, famed racing photographer. Louis Klemantaski was born in the Manchurian city of Harbin. His father, a British subject of Russian extraction, had hoped to seek his fortune there by exporting soy beans and importing Willys-Knight and Overland cars. Klemantaski returned to England for his education and, having learned to drive a car when he was eight, in his teen years spent much of his time at the famous Brooklands circuit where he founded what he believes was the first school for racing drivers. In what was a most fortunate decision, he became a professional photographer in the 1930’s as a means of keeping in touch with the sport he loved, after he realized that a career as a racing driver would be too expensive to underwrite.

Klemantaski attended every race he could get to. Always positioning himself close to the action, Klemantaski combined his talent for panning with the use of short lenses and large apertures to capture the feelings and sensations of motion. Klemantaski’s talent for composition was also unique. His images are like finished paintings, needing no alteration to maximize their impact on the viewer. Some of his most important work came from his trips to Italy for the Mille Miglia. For five years in the mid-1950’s he rode as a passenger in this most famous of all the open road races which resulted in some of the most dramatic photography ever taken.

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