Autochromes Lumière


Antoine, The Founding Father

From Painter to Apprentice Photographer
On the 24th of October, 1861, a young painter named Antoine Lumière Antoine Lumière
Lumière, Claude-Antoine, b: Ormay (Haute-Saône) March 13, 1830 - d: Paris 9e, April 15, 1911
, living in Paris, fell in love and married a laundress named Joséphine Costille Joséphine Costille
Costille, Jeanne-Joséphine, b: Paris 5e, July 19, 1841 - d: Lyon 3e, December 20, 1915
. A few weeks later, they moved to Dôle in the Eastern France of his youth, where the young painter soon found a position as a photographer's apprentice. Shortly thereafter, having moved again to the nearby town of Besançon, he began to prosper a little from his work. Nonetheless, in order to bring in a bit of extra  revenue, Antoine committed himself to taking some additional painting courses  and also gave some courses in drawing at l'Ecole d'art industriel. Not to be confined to the visual arts, he also participated in diverse musical societies and one could often  hear his rich  baritone voice in the evening. Antoine Lumière pursued artistic as well as spiritual aims, and so it was at this time that he discovered the Masonic doctrines, as well as those of the social and political French Saint-Simonian movement, which would guide him throughout his life. These activities would ultimately lead him to travels throughout Switzerland and the French Jura region. Over the years, three children were born to Antoine and Joséphine: their two sons August (1862) and Louis (1864), and their daughter Jeanne (1870). By the time the Lumière family left Besançon for Lyon, having been chased from Antoine's native region of Franche-Comté by the war of 1870, the future of the photographer must have  seemed very uncertain.

« Carte de Visite » Portraiture
The Lumière family arrived in Lyon in the winter of 1871. For some months, Antoine worked with the photographer Lebeau, after which time, he set up his own business at 15, rue de la Barre. As one might expect, there were some growing pains for Antoine, but his artistic talents, his warm temperament and stubborn work ethic gained him some renown in the business. Lumière seemed to have understood that he would never be celebrated artistically in Lyon, and so it was better to be an honourable businessman, and his business thus met with real success. He dedicated himself to photography and began producing the small, card-sized portraits known as cartes de visite. The carte de visite, popularised in 1855 by the Parisian Disdéri Disdéri
Disdéri, André-Eugène-Adolphe (b: Paris, March 28, 1819 - d: Id, October 3, 1889), was one of the most celebrated portrait photographers of the time. In 1860, he created the most important photographic studio in Paris, located at 6, then at 8 boulevard des Italiens, and employed 70 people. Between 1879 and 1889, he lived in Nice. Upon his return to Paris, he died deaf and in near total destitution at the Hôpital Sainte-Anne.
, was a  technique that allowed photography to become a ready merchandise. With a camera and a few lenses, one could produce six to eight reproductions of one or more subjects on a single sheet of glass. The final phase of the operation consisted in cutting the images away, and then fastening them to a cardboard base. The production was relatively inexpensive and allowed the newly-formed middle class of the time easy access to what would have been considered a luxury product. Typically, the information contained on the back of these photographs would include the address of the subject, remuneration, production materials, and the line of succession. It was through such novelties as the carte de visite that a new fashion was born: the family photo-album.

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