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Παρασκευή, 16 Οκτωβρίου 2015

Louis Le Prince



Louis Le Prince

Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince (French: [lwi lə pʁɛ̃s]; 28 August 1841 – vanished 16 September 1890) was a French inventor who shot the first moving pictures on paper film using a single lens camera. He has been heralded as the "Father of Cinematography" since 1930.
A Frenchman who also worked in the United Kingdom and the United States, Le Prince conducted his ground-breaking work in 1888 in the city of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.[4] In October 1888, Le Prince filmed moving picture sequences Roundhay Garden Scene and a Leeds Bridge street scene using his single-lens camera and Eastman's paper film.[5] These were several years before the work of competing inventors such as William Friese-Greene, Auguste and Louis Lumière and Thomas Edison.
He was never able to perform a planned public demonstration in the US because he mysteriously vanished from a train on 16 September 1890.[1] His body and luggage were never found, but, over a century later, a police archive was found to contain a photograph of a drowned man who could have been him.[5] Not long after Le Prince's disappearance, Thomas Edison tried to take credit for the invention. But Le Prince’s widow and son, Adolphe, were keen to advance his cause as the inventor of cinematography. In 1898 Adolphe appeared as a witness for the defence in a court case brought by Edison against the American Mutoscope Company. (The suit claimed that Edison was the first and sole inventor of cinematography, and thus entitled to royalties for the use of the process). Adolphe Le Prince was not allowed to present his father's two cameras as evidence (and so establish Le Prince’s prior claim as inventor) and eventually the court ruled in favour of Edison. However, a year later that ruling was overturned.
 
Forgotten inventor of motion pictures
The early history of motion pictures in the United States and Europe is marked by battles over patents of cameras. In 1888 Le Prince was granted an American dual-patent on a 16-lens device that combined a motion picture camera with a projector. A patent for a single-lens type (MkI) was refused in America because of an interfering patent, yet a few years later the same patent[further explanation needed] was not opposed when the American Thomas Edison applied for one.
On October 14, 1888, Le Prince used an updated version (MkII) of his single-lens camera to film Roundhay Garden Scene. He exhibited his first films in the Whitley factory in Hunslet, Leeds and in Oakwood Grange, the Whitley family home in Roundhay, Leeds, but they were not distributed to the general public.
The following year, he took French-American dual citizenship in order to establish himself with his family in New York City and to follow up his research. However, he was never able to perform his planned public exhibition at Morris–Jumel Mansion in Manhattan, in September 1890, due to his mysterious disappearance. Consequently, Le Prince's contribution to the birth of the cinema has often been overlooked.
 
Life
“ "In conclusion, I would say that Mr. Le Prince was in many ways a very extraordinary man, apart from his inventive genius, which was undoubtedly great. He stood 6ft. 3in. or 4in. (190cm) in his stockings, well built in proportion, and he was most gentle and considerate and, though an inventor, of an extremely placid disposition which nothing appeared to ruffle."
Declaration of Frederic Mason (wood-worker and assistant of Le Prince, April 21, 1931, American consulate of Bradford, England) ”
 
Childhood and school
Le Prince was born on Saint-Georges street in Metz, France, on 28 August 1841. His father was a major of artillery in the French Army[9] and an officer of the Légion d'honneur. He grew up spending time in the studio of his father's friend, the photography pioneer Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre,[9] from whom the young Le Prince received lessons relating to photography and chemistry and for whom he was the subject of a Daguerrotype, an early type of photograph. His education went on to include the study of painting in Paris and post-graduate chemistry at Leipzig University,[9] which provided him with the academic knowledge he was to utilise in the future.
 
Adulthood
He moved to Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK in 1866, after being invited to join John Whitley,[1] a friend from college, in Whitley Partners of Hunslet,[10] a firm of brass founders making valves and components. In 1869 he married Elizabeth Whitley, John's sister[1] and a talented artist. The couple started a school of applied art, the Leeds Technical School of Art, in 1871, and became well renowned for their work in fixing colour photography on to metal and pottery, leading to them being commissioned for portraits of Queen Victoria and the long-serving Prime Minister William Gladstone produced in this way; these were included alongside other mementos of the time in a time capsule—manufactured by Whitley Partners of Hunslet — which was placed in the foundations of Cleopatra's Needle on the embankment of the River Thames.
In 1881 Le Prince went to the United States[9] as an agent for Whitley Partners, staying in the country along with his family once his contract had ended.[citation needed] He became the manager for a small group of French artists who produced large panoramas, usually of famous battles, that were exhibited in New York City, Washington DC and Chicago. During this time he continued the experiments he had begun, relating to the production of 'moving' photographs and to find the best material for film stock.
During his time in the US, Le Prince built a camera that utilised sixteen lenses,[10] which was the first invention he patented. Although the camera was capable of 'capturing' motion, it wasn't a complete success because each lens photographed the subject from a slightly different viewpoint and thus the projected image jumped about.
After his return to Leeds with his family in May 1887, Le Prince built and then patented a single-lens camera. It was first used on 14 October 1888 to shoot what would become known as Roundhay Garden Scene, the world's first motion picture. Le Prince later used it to shoot trams and the horse-drawn and pedestrian traffic crossing Leeds Bridge. The film was shot from Hicks the Ironmongers, now the British Waterways building, a building on the south east side of the bridge. A blue plaque marks the spot (however it does not spell his name correctly). These pictures were soon projected on a screen in Leeds, making it the first motion picture exhibition.
 
Suspicious disappearance
In September 1890, Le Prince was preparing to go back to the UK to patent his new camera, to be followed by a trip to the US to promote it. Before his journey, he decided to return home and visit friends and family. Having done so, he left Bourges on 13 September to visit his brother in Dijon. He would then take the 16 September train to Paris, but when the train arrived, his friends discovered that Le Prince was not on board. He was never seen again by his family or friends. No luggage or corpse was found in the Dijon-Paris express, nor along the railway. No one saw Le Prince at the Dijon station, except his brother. No one saw Le Prince in the Dijon–Paris express after he was seen boarding it. No one noticed any strange behaviour or aggression in the Dijon-Paris express.
The French police, Scotland Yard and the family undertook exhaustive searches but never found his body or luggage. This mysterious disappearance case was never solved. Four main theories have been proposed:

1. Perfect suicide: The grandson of Le Prince's brother told film historian Georges Potonniée that Le Prince wanted to commit suicide because he was on the verge of bankruptcy. He had already arranged his suicide and he managed for his own body and belongings never to be found. However, Potonniée noted that Le Prince's business was profitable and that he was proud of his inventions, and thus had no reason to commit suicide.

2. Patent Wars assassination, "Equity 6928": Christopher Rawlence pursues the assassination theory, along with other theories, and discusses the Le Prince family's suspicions of Edison over patents (the Equity 6928) in his 1990 book and documentary The Missing Reel. At the time that he vanished, Le Prince was about to patent his 1889 projector in the UK and then leave Europe for his scheduled New York official exhibition. His widow assumed foul play though no concrete evidence has ever emerged and Rawlence prefers the suicide theory. In 1898, Le Prince's elder son Adolphe, who had assisted his father in many of his experiments, was called as a witness for the American Mutoscope Company in their litigation with Edison [Equity 6928]. By citing Le Prince's achievements, Mutoscope hoped to annul Edison's subsequent claims to have invented the moving-picture camera. Le Prince's widow Lizzie and Adolphe hoped that this would gain recognition for Le Prince's achievement, but when the case went against Mutoscope their hopes were dashed. Two years later Adolphe Le Prince was found dead while out duck shooting on Fire Island near New York.

3. Disappearance ordered by the family: In 1966, Jacques Deslandes proposed a theory in Histoire comparée du cinéma (The Comparative History of Cinema), claiming that Le Prince voluntarily disappeared due to financial reasons (already shown to be false) and "familial conveniences". Journalist Léo Sauvage quotes a note shown to him by Pierre Gras, director of the Dijon municipal library, in 1977, that claimed Le Prince died in Chicago in 1898, having moved there at the family's request because he was homosexual; but he rejects that assertion. There is no evidence to suggest that Le Prince was gay.

4. Fratricide, murder for money: In 1967, Jean Mitry proposed, in Histoire du cinéma, that Le Prince was killed. Mitry notes that if Le Prince truly wanted to disappear, he could have done so at any time prior to that. Thus, most likely he never even boarded the train in Dijon. He also questions that if the brother, who was confirmed to be the last person to see Le Prince alive, knew Le Prince was suicidal, why didn't he try to stop him, and why didn't he report this to the police before it was too late?
Le Prince was officially declared dead in 1897. A photograph of a drowning victim from 1890 resembling Le Prince was discovered in 2003 during research in the Paris police archives.
 

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