Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière Biography


Auguste and Louis Lumière were the sons of Antoine Lumière, a painter and pioneer photographer who founded a factory in Lyons, France, to manufacture photographic gelatin dry-plates in 1882. The brothers were born inBesanìon, France, August on October 19, 1862, and Louis on October 5,1864. The family business gave them a natural interest in photography and, working as a team, they made important contributions to both still photographyand motion pictures, as well as other scientific endeavors. But it is as theinventors of the modern cinema that the Lumières are perhaps best known.

Inspired by Thomas Alva Edison's kinetoscope, the brothers set out to developan improved film projection system. In February 1895, they took out a patenton their cinÄmatographe, an apparatus that not only took pictures but also later projected them. Using a claw movement that advanced the frames of the film 12 times per second, the cinÄmatographe projected still images on a screen separated by moments of blackness. The images lingered on the viewer's retina, and the viewer thus perceived a moving image. The Lumières described their invention as having "scientific curiosity, commercial future whatsoever." Public opinion soon proved them wrong.

On December 28, 1895, in front of a paying audience at the Grand Cafe in Paris, the brothers staged a twenty-minute program of ten films, including one ofa train as it entered a station, moving straight toward the camera. The filmcreated panic in the audience; several women are said to have fainted. The event has gone down in history as the first public cinema performance. Withinfive years of the invention of the cinÄmatographe--during which time theLumières promoted it throughout Europe--motion pictures were being made in every developed country in the world. The Lumières continued toinnovate film technology. In Paris in 1900, they demonstrated their Photorama, which was a 360í panoramic projector. Thirty-five years later, theyintroduced their stereo-cine process, which was based on the principle of anaglyphics.

As pioneers of color photography, the Lumières came up with the firstcommercially successful method of creating a color photograph on a single plate. Their autochrome process, patented in 1907, involved covering a special photographic plate, patented in 1904, with small grains of potato starch dyedgreen, red, and blue and then applying a thin film of panchromatic emulsion (i.e., emulsion equally sensitive to all colors). The exposure was made through the glass side of the plate through the dyed starch grains. After it was exposed, the plate produced a transparency composed of small dots of color. Since these dots were too small for the human eye to detect as separate, they gave the appearance of mixed colors.

The Lumières' process had its drawbacks. It produced transparencies rather than actual photographs, and the transparencies had to be projected ontoa screen or viewed through a hand-held viewer. The density of the potato starch made the transparencies dark and grainy, and prints made from them were of poor quality. Also, the autochrome plate required a very long exposure--about 40 to 60 times longer than the best black-and-white plates. Despite its limitations, the Lumières' autochrome process paved the way for the commercial success of color photography. It remained one of the most popular methods for color photography until the 1930s, when subtractive color processes replaced it. Louis Lumière died in Bandol, France, on June 6, 1948. Auguste died in Lyons on April 10, 1954.

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