Louis Le Prince

Died aged c. 48

Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince (28 August 1841 – 16 September 1897) was a French artist and the inventor of an early motion-picture camera, possibly the first person to shoot a moving picture sequence using a single lens camera and a strip of (paper) film. He has been credited as "Father of Cinematography", but his work did not influence the commercial development of cinema—owing at least in part to the great secrecy surrounding it. A Frenchman who also worked in the United Kingdom and the United States, Le Prince's motion-picture experiments culminated in 1888 in Leeds, England. In October of that year, he filmed moving-picture sequences of family members in Roundhay Garden and his son playing the accordion, using his single-lens camera and Eastman's paper negative film. At some point in the following eighteen months he also made a film of Leeds Bridge. This work may have been slightly in advance of the inventions of contemporaneous moving-picture pioneers, such as the British inventors William Friese-Greene and Wordsworth Donisthorpe, and was years in advance of that of Auguste and Louis Lumière and William Kennedy Dickson (who did the moving image work for Thomas Edison). Le Prince was never able to perform a planned public demonstration of his camera in the US because he mysteriously vanished; he was last known to be boarding a train on 16 September 1890. Multiple conspiracy theories have emerged about the reason for his disappearance, including: a murder set up by Edison, secret homosexuality, disappearance in order to start a new life, and a murder by his brother over their mother's will. No evidence exists for any of these and the most likely explanation remains that he committed suicide, overcome by the shame of heavy debts and the apparent failure of his experiments. In 2004, a police archive in Paris was found to contain a photograph of a drowned man bearing a strong resemblance to Le Prince who was discovered in the Seine just after the time of his disappearance. In early 1890, Edison workers had begun experimenting with using a strip of celluloid film to capture moving images. The first public results of these experiments were shown in May 1891. However, Le Prince's widow and son Adolphe were keen to advance Louis's 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. This suit claimed that Edison was the first and sole inventor of cinematography, and thus entitled to royalties for the use of the process. Adolphe was involved in the case but was not allowed to present his father's two cameras as evidence, although films shot with cameras built according to his father's patent were presented. Eventually the court ruled in favour of Edison. A year later that ruling was overturned, but Edison then reissued his patents and succeeded in controlling the US film industry for many years.

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Commemorated on 2 plaques

Louis Le Prince. Louis Aime August Le Prince came to Leeds in 1866 where he experimented in cinematography. In 1888 he patented a one-lens camera with which he filmed Leeds Bridge from this British Waterways building. These were probably the world's first successful moving pictures.

adjacent to the Leeds Bridge, Leeds, United Kingdom where they made a film

Louis Le Prince The pioneer of cinematography had a workshop on this site where he invented a one-lens camera and a projecting machine. Le Prince produced what are believed to be the world's first moving pictures taken on Leeds Bridge in 1888.

Blenheim Terrace, Leeds, United Kingdom where they had a workshop