Louis Klemantaski, the charismatic motor racing photographer, has died aged 89. He discovered at Brooklands in the 1920s that he was no racing driver but could wield a camera, and revelled in capturing the social aspect. With his many languages, urbane charm and exotic background (he was born in Manchuria) he befriended many drivers, and followed the Grand Prix circus around Europe until WVVII began. His always elegant dress and goatee beard made him an unlikely soldier, and instead he joined the British ‘Department of Dirty Tricks’, where he invented a sonar range-finder, a floating walkway and worked on ‘Panjandrum’ a 10h-tall explosive catherine wheel which was soon added to his list of ‘Klemantastrophies’.
He returned to photography after the War, with a unique viewpoint inside the cockpit. He navigated on Monte Carlo rallies and five Mile Miglias, first with Reg Parnell (Klem was virtually a part of the Aston Martin team), then his close friend Peter Collins, taking stunning close-ups of Collins at the wheel of his Ferrari. Distressed by Collins’ death in 1958, Klem turned to photographing opera and ballet, retiring in 1982, though still often seen at motoring events in his perpetual bow-tie. His very funny autobiography, ranging from Japan to Covent Garden, summed up a full and fascinating life. GC