When the Prussians invaded France in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war, the family moved to Lyon. Here, Antoine, opened a studio which catered for portraiture. Lyon was a booming city, and the family business prospered.
||Auguste (1862 - 1954) and Louis (1864 - 1948) Lumière were the sons of a wealthy painter (Antoine) who lived in Lyon, France. Their father was interested in painting but the two boys were far more interested in the new science of photography.
The boys became the owner of a Kodak camera and spent many hours working with it. Their main interest was how to make photography available to all people, since at that time, developing photos was a very complicated process. Sitters had to remain still for up to seven minutes while their photos were taken. The negatives were on glass, which required a variety of processes. The boys wanted to simplify these process and make photography cheaper so more people could enjoy it.
It took four years of work to develop a successful new process. Louis persuaded his father to build a new factory to make photographic plates. In his enthusiasm the factory was far too large for the family business which was soon struggling under a mountain of debts.
"Nous sommes perdus" (We are lost) said Antoine in tears. The brothers worked 14 hours a day, with their sister, to try to make the factory a success. Their hard work paid off. By 1886, the family had become millionaires.
||The Villa Lumière in Lyon which is now a film museum. The family lived here, and the factory was behind.
One day, Antoine showed his sons a section of the perforated movie film made in the USA for one of the Edison movie cameras that had just been invented. He wondered if it were possible to find a cheaper method of making film since the Edison film was extremely expensive.
The brothers were fascinated by the movie camera, but horrified at its expense. It was also very hard to use. They decided that they would try to invent a movie camera that was cheap and easy to use. It was Auguste who came up with the idea (during a sleepless night) of putting sprockets and sprocket holes in the side of the film. The Lumière Cinematographe had been invented!
||This Lumière movie camera recently
sold at auction for $80 000
It was difficult for the brothers to think of themes for their first movies. They managed to encourage their father's gardener to take part. He had to hose the flowers in the garden. While Auguste turned the movie, Louis stood on the hose.
Then Auguste and Louis filmed all the workers leaving their father's factory at the end of the day. "La sortie des usines".
|"L'arroseur arrosé" the Lumière brothers' very first movie.
||The gardener looked at the hose to see why it was not working and Louis took his foot off. The gardener received a big jet of water in the face. This was the first movie ever made, a comedy, and it lasted for just under a minute.
They also made a movie of one of their children in a high chair eating its lunch which they called The Baby's Meal (le repas d'un bébé). These may appear to be boring subjects for us, but they proved to be a hit with the general public.
The brothers first showed their films at the Grand Cafe in Paris on 28th December 1895. People were amazed at the new invention. Soon, there were huge queues waiting up to three hours outside the Café just to see ten minutes of film.
The brothers had created the concept of "the cinema" where people paid to see a film. The public were rapt by the new medium. The screening of the "Arrival of the Train at La Ciotat", for example, was so life-like, even in black and white, that people in the front rows screamed and fainted.
Each of the home made movies lasted about a minute. The Lumière brothers did not really think about the new medium they had created, nor did they think about distributing their movies. They were interested only in selling their cameras and produced the movies in order to do that. By the end of the century, they had created nearly 1500 short movies!
The Lumière Cinematographe was the first mass produced movie picture camera. The fame of the Cinematographe quickly spread. It was first shown in London at the Polytechnic in March 1896. It was then shown in all the major cities in Europe and arrived in New York in June 1896. Although it was 20 000 kilometres away, Australia saw the the first movies within ten months of their first public showing.
The Lumière Brothers quickly sent movie photographers to photograph exotic places in various parts of the world because people wanted to see moving images of distant countries and peoples.
The First World War though, put an end to much of the developing film industry in France as money and resources had to be diverted to the war effort. America, which did not join in the war until 1917, benefited from this and was able to successfully exploit many of the ideas, concepts and processes that the brothers had developed. They sold their rights to Pathé.