Motor Racing Photography | Part 1

Posted in Art Direction, Motor Racing, Photography on 24/06/2017

Motor racing and photography, in fact motorsport in general, is highly photogenic but there are few photographers that have ‘the eye‘ for a shot and can make sure they are in the right place at the right time, knowing the angle of the track, the composition of the shot, where the sun is and where the action is going to take place. It is more cinematography or art direction than taking a technically perfect photograph… having the photographer’s eye. These photographers know motor racing so know, often instinctively, how to capture the excitement, danger and atmosphere of this magical sport.

In this series of blogs we’ll look at a few photographers who are the masters of their craft; masters of the art of photography. We make no excuse for loving the depth and contrast in black and white photography, the lighting, shadows and atmosphere… and we make no excuse for loving the period between 1930 – 1975. Photography is, without doubt, an art form and we hope you enjoy this selection of photographs.

In the first installment we look at Louis Klemantaski.

motorsport photography

Klemantaski died aged 89 in 2001 having achieved the respect of peers; the doyen of motor racing photographers and arguably the greatest exponent of the art.

Some of Klemantaski’s greatest photographs were shot with analogue cameras. He followed the Grand Prix circus around Europe always able to ‘see the shot’, choose the best spot and the perfect moment to take pictures.

“I knew enough about racing,” Klemantaski once said, “to know what a car would be doing that critical fraction of a second after I pressed the button.”

louis klemantaski motor racing photographer

He knew enough [understatement!] because he had raced at Brooklands in the 1930s. Additionally, and interesting for those who like aviation history, at the outbreak of World War Two he joined the Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development at the Admiralty, where he was involvement in the development of Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb. Here his role was to take photographs which would allow an assessment to be made of the dimensions, trajectory and speed at which the bombs were most likely to be effective in breaking the dams. After the war Klemantaski renewed his interest in motor racing and followed the circuits round Europe, photographing Fangio, Gonzales, Moss, Hawthorn and others from that rakish and adventurous time.

Klemantaski entered three Monte Carlo rallies and took part in five Mille Miglia – most notably with Peter Collins in a Ferrari 860 Monza. In 1956 and 1957 he and Collins finished second in the Ferrari.

Klemantaski enjoyed wine and food. In his tours of the continent during the 1950’s he ate well, but eschewed Michelin-starred restaurants, favouring family-run establishments. His favourite restaurant was Ricordeau at Loue near Le Mans, where he could be found during the 24-hour race.

Klemantaski was a popular, dapper figure, distinguished by his bow tie and neatly trimmed imperial. He retired in 1982.