Lumiere Brothers

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The Lumiere Brothers, Auguste (left) & Louis (right)

Auguste and Louis Lumiere are two brothers from France who were known to be inventors and some of the first filmmakers in the history of cinema.  They were born in Barsançon, France (Auguste in 1862 and Louis in 1864).  Their father was a well known painter and started a photography business in Lyon, France, where the two brothers worked.  After seeing an exhibit of Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope, Auguste and Louis’ father strongly encouraged them to invent something that could project images rather than have to look through Edison’s kinetoscope.  They soon developed the cinematograph which combined a camera, film developer, and projector (Campbell 2017).  The cinematograph used a hand crank which projected video onto a large scale screen.  The kinetoscope required one to look inside the peep holes to view a movie.  The cinematograph was also much smaller and lighter than the kinetoscope.

The two brothers first started making short films in 1892 after their father retired from the family photography business.  The Lumiere brothers made ten short films, each lasting around 45 seconds.  These are the first 10 films by the Lumiere brothers shown to the public in Paris on December 28, 1895:

  • La Sortie de l’Usine Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory)
  • Le Jardiniere (l’Arroseur Arrosé) (The Gardener)
  • Le Débarquement du Congrès de Photographie à Lyon (The Disembarkment of the Congress of Photographers in Lyon)
  • La Voltige (Horse Trick Riders)
  • La Pêche aux poissons rouge (Fishing for Goldfish)
  • Les Forgerons (Blacksmiths)
  • Repas de bebe (Baby’s Breakfast)
  • Le Saut à la couverture (Jumping onto the Blanket)
  • La Places des Cordeliers & Lyon (Corderliers Square in Lyon-a street scene)
  • La Mer (Baignade en mer) (The Sea)

The Lumiere brothers then went on tour all over the world after this to cities like New York, Montreal, and London to show their movies and their cinematograph.

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A flyer for the Lumiere Brothers on tour

Along with being innovators for the film industry, the Lumiere brothers also helped in the world of photography.  In 1903, the Lumieres managed to invent the first camera with the ability to take pictures with color, they named this camera the autochrome.  The autochrome required a long exposure time of at least 60 seconds, so the subjects being photographed had to hold perfectly still for that period of time (Poole 2007).  Before this era of the “autochrome” there was what historians call the “monochrome” era.  During this time period people were only able to take photos in black and white.  Thanks to the autochrome, colors were beginning to make an appearance in pictures.

The Lumiere brothers took black and white palates from their family’s picture business and gathered up potatoes and grounded them up into three piles.  One pile was colored with red-orange coloring, one with violet coloring, and one with green coloring.  Once the picture was taken the particles of the potatoes would then settle into the black and white palate and create colorful images (Poole).


Campbell, R,. Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communications in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Poole, R. M. (2007). In Living Color. Smithsonian, 38(6), 60-63.

Image Attribution: The images used in this post are in the Public Domain

Written by Mark Cooley, 2017