2013-02-25

More on Kary H Lasch

Lasch, bowling with girls. Notice his pin.
Nausea has been my constant companion this last week. It has been impossible to focus on anything for longer than just a few minutes. People ask me if it´s the flu or just a common cold. Well, I think the flu kicked the door in, and then several common viruses came to squat. I think of them like that unhealthy looking bunch from "Trainspotting". There was one they called Sickboy, remember? I know him, he´s been on the premises. But never mind. I´m better now, if not entirely back to my old self.

To amuse myself, I have been leafing through Jan Lundgren´s "The Kary H Lasch Collection" from 1995. Lasch didn´t just keep a collection of photographs, he collected everything that he found amusing. Jokes, french cards (= old fashioned pornography), letters from hopeful girls (and their mothers), anything. The book is a misch masch of photos, stories, bits and pieces. A bit like a scrap book.

La Loren meets the press.
The first story is the best: In 1955, new film star Sophia Loren is coming to Stockholm for the Italian film week. The Swedish press photographers meet her at the Central Railway Station, and they all get photos like this:

A few days later, picture magazine Se publishes this, from inside Sophia Loren´s railway compartment:

How did he do it? Everyone wants to know. "I just got on the train in Copenhagen", says Lasch, giving a few humorous hints to the use of bribery and seduction.

Tony Wilson, of Factory Records fame, once said that if you have to choose between the truth and the legend - always choose the legend. Lasch probably would have agreed. He cultivated his own legend, that of being the guy who could talk himself into (or out of) any situation, any picture. Lasch may have liked people to believe that he came from nothing, that he got his very first picture on the cover of a magazine, but the truth is, he was a rich little Central-European boy, he got his first camera from his dad, who used to take him to art museums to show him the secrets of good portraiture. His first "girl picture" was of his mum, and he had a Swiss boarding school education. In 1955 he was well known in Cannes, and an ambitious girl like Sophia Loren would have already made her introductions. Lasch also spoke fluent Italian (and likely German, French, English and a few languages more), and had been to the Loren/Ponti house for dinner.

Picasso watching Lasch´s bullfighting pictures.
One time, he decided to go see Salvador Dali. He knocked twice, but the great artist was not at home. Or so he was told. Lasch then went to a book store, asked for the best biography of Dali, noted the author´s name, and the third time he knocked, said he had a greeting from the biographer. Dali welcomed him with open arms. Lasch may have told a lie or two, but he knew how to tell them, he knew how successful people behaved. As long as you were generous and of use, a little lie would be nothing to them. They had probably all got where they were the same way. He would snap unwelcome pictures of celebrities, get a bollocking, send all the photos to them the next day, and some of the time he would get commissioned. Picasso liked his pictures, as they made him look tall.

In his collection was a key. It belonged to the back door of the cathedral where Grace Kelly got married to Prince Rainier. Lasch stole it, so that he could sneak in during the night and get a good spot. Unfortunately, the gendarm found him out and posted guards by the door. He got pretty good pictures anyway, being an old aquaintance of the bride. 

One season there was a play on at the Royal Dramatic Theatre, "Waiting for Bardot", about two photographers wanting to be as successful as Kary H Lasch, wanting to discover a new Bardot. He was a bit pissed at not getting a free ticket to the show - he was always generous himself like that. When he had been abroad, he always brought home small, preferably indecent, gifts to the editors of the women´s magazines. One year, he brought them knit penis warmers, which were a great success. A few weeks later, one of them had knit one for him, but much larger. "The right size, and everything", he responded. Someone said of him that "when he is serious, he seems to have the wisdom of a 100- year-old, but when he is joking, you´d think he was eight."

Among his photos, you´ll find images of very young girls like Britt Ekland, Bibi Andersson, Gina Lollobridgida, Eartha Kitt, and Isabella Scorupco. You´ll also find pictures like the one above, of bull fights. Picasso liked them, he thought they were art, but Lasch said categorically that photography was not art. To him, it was a craft. A photographer didn´t create, he just snapped what was already there. Or so Lasch thought, anyway. He liked to take photos of children, he often borrowed his friends´ kids. He also liked to horse around in front of the camera, being a bit of a clown.

Fashion photography for H&M, when they were just Hennes.
Childplay, on the streets of Milan.
Having lunch with the soon-to-be princess of Monaco, getting kissed by a cheeky waiter.
Probably my favourite: window cleaners at Solvalla trotting track.

I´d like to finish with a Kary Lasch-style limerick, from his vast collection:
There was a young girl from Australia
who painted her ass like a dahlia
the colours were bright
and the effect was alright
but the smell was an awful failure. 

4 comments:

  1. the names of those actresses brought back memories of films i've seen them in. i've seen a lot more older movies than i have more recent ones. i don't think i've seen any of the ones honored at this year's oscars.

    i'd never heard of this photographer before. when i'm looking at photos online and see the photographers' names, i never recognize them. they don't get the same kind of credit that portrait painters get.

    i'm glad i got to know a bit about him through you. that bullfighting photo captured the movement so perfectly!

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    1. Oh, the Oscars! I totally missed that, haven´t seen a single dress anyone wore... I haven´t seen a single film nominated either, but I thought I´d go for Les Miserables, at least that is a classic.

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  2. Very fascinating, thank you for sharing. Sounds like he was quite an interesting character.
    I was goggling for more information on a set of 4 fashion prints I have entitled "Costumes Parisions" (1 is 1912, the other 3 are 1913), when I stumbled upon your blog.
    On the bottom of each print states: "Collection Kary H. Lasch", and in other corner: copyright M.W.R./Art Decor serie 620. Sounds like the type of person who should have some type of museum left from the rippling wake of his fascinating life.

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    1. I am happy to share, and I think Kary Lasch is undeservedly forgotten. I imagine there were many sides to his character.

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