Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas Lumière and Louis Jean Lumière

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Full Name:

Auguste / Louis Lumière

Occupation / Title:

, , ,

Date of birth:

Auguste: 19/10/1862, Louis: 05/10/1864

Date of death:

Auguste: 10/04/1954, Louis: 06/06/1948


Besançon, France


Auguste and Louis Lumière were the first filmmakers in history. The invented and patented the cinematograph, the first technology that allowed the viewing of films by multiple people at once. Their film Sortie de l’usine Lumière de Lyon (1895) is considered to be the first “true” film ever produced.

Career outline

The two brothers were born to Charles-Antoine Lumière and Jeanne Joséphine Costille Lumière in Besançon, France. Their parents had a small portrait photography studio there, which meant that Auguste and Louis were involved with photography and learned about photographic techniques from a very young age. In 1870 the family moved to Lyon, where their parents had three more children. In Lyon the brothers attended the largest technical school, La Martiniere. When Auguste returned from military service in 1882, he and Louis designed a more efficient machine for automating the photographic plate production that saved their father’s photographic plate factory from bankruptcy. They also designed a very successful new photographic plate, ‘etiquettes bleue’, which also buoyed the business.

The brothers continued to work on a wide variety of innovations for photography and film, and really began to patent and use their inventions after their father’s retirement in 1892. These inventions included film perforations, which enabled film to be advanced through the camera and projector. An original cinematograph had been developed by Léon Guillaume Bouly in 1892, though three years later, the Lumière brothers had patented their own. Their first film, of factory workers leaving the Lumière factory, was shot only a month after.

1895 saw the Lumière brothers holding the first public screening of films (their own films). Though the American Woodville Latham had screened films earlier in that year, the Lumière brothers held the historical note for being the first “official” screening at which admission was charged. They presented ten films in total, each one around 50 seconds long and hand-cranked through a projector.

The films used in this first showing include: La Sortie de l’Usine Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory), Le Jardinier (l’Arroseur Arrosé) (“The Gardener”, or “The Sprinkler Sprinkled”), 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 rouges (“fishing for goldfish”), Les Forgerons (“Blacksmiths”), Repas de bébé (“Baby’s Breakfast” (lit. “baby’s meal”)), Le Saut à la couverture (“Jumping Onto the Blanket”), La Places des Cordeliers à Lyon (“Cordeliers Square in Lyon”—a street scene), and La Mer (Baignade en mer) (“the sea [bathing in the sea]”).

The following year, the brothers went on a global tour, bringing their showcase to several different countries and inciting a widespread fascination in film. The films showcased and subsequently produced by the Lumière brothers serve as the first sketch of the documentary film, particularly because the Lumière brothers were particularly intent on branding film as a scientific and observatory discipline (in both technique and product). Their desire to keep it an exacting art and a guarded technology upset several filmmakers who became absolutely fascinated by the technique. This pushed other inventors to create their own filmmaking cameras, and also pushed the Lumière brothers out of the industry to some extent, after their initial pioneering moments. Instead, they began experimenting with colour photography, further developing the Lippmann process (interference heliochromy) and inventing their own ‘bichromated glue’ process. Their great commercial success in colour photography came with their invention of the Autochrome Lumière in 1907, establishing them as primary producers of photographic products throughout the 20th century.


Cook, David (2004). A History of Narrative Film (4th ed.). New York: W. W. Norton.

Mast, Gerald; Bruce F. Kawin (2006). A Short History of the Movies (9th ed.). New York: Pearson Longman.

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