The Lumières

Auguste and Louis Lumière:
A Brief History

Near the end of the 19th Century, in Lyon France, at the moment in European history known as the Belle Epoch — when everything good seemed possible, two wildly creative brothers, Auguste and Louis Lumière started working together in their father’s photographic factory producing photographic plates. The work was tedious, but soon the two visionary brothers designed the machines necessary to automate their father’s production and devised a successful new photo plate, ‘etiquettes bleue’, to help automate production.

By 1884 the factory employed a dozen workers and the workshop started to become very profitable. The two Lumière brothers went on to develop the first practical photographic color process, the Lumière Autochrome. Without these brothers’ brilliant innovations photography might be a poor ghost without the technical sophistication and the color plates the Lumiere brothers brought to the medium. Their factory staff doubled, then tripled. These brothers were celebrated in every civilized country for their pioneering photographic technical innovations. These brilliant inventors advanced the cause of still and color photography like no other men before.


Louis and Auguste Lumière


Later, in 1895, Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the first movie camera and projector and became the world’s first filmmakers. In 1895 they produced 10 short films which they toured around Europe, and set the artistic and intellectual world on fire.

To this day the work done by Auguste and Louis Lumiere has engaged our entire planet with a brilliant, artistic, creative intensity. These two men gave those who love cinema and still photography a cornucopia of technical and creative inventions which have lasted for more than 200 years. All of us are deeply indebted to them. Without these brothers brilliant inventions, color, still photography and cinema might be sadly different than what we know today.

We are proud to honor these men with our annual Lumiere Awards, which celebrate Excellence in Photography and the Moving Image.

— Phil Tarley
An award-winning Fellow of the American Film Institute. He writes about photography for Fabrik Magazine.

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