Promio, Alexandre (1868-1926)*

Alexandre Promio

Jean Alexandre Louis Promio, an enigmatic figure from a Lyon family of Italian descent (also reported to have been known as Eugène, Georges or Albert Promio) was by far the most prolific of all Lumière cameramen. Of the 750 “views” for which the cameraman is known (around half the total number of Lumière “views”), Promio is credited with 348. The great majority of these were shot between 1896 and 1898.

Promio holds a  very special place in early film history for being a particularly early exponent of the tracking shot from a moving vehicle, including from a gondola on the Grand Canal in Venice in October 1896 (nos. 295 and 296 in the Lumière catalogue), from a train leaving Jerusalem in April 1897 (nos. 399 and 400) and from a tram on the now-demolished overhead tramway running alongside Liverpool Docks in October 1897 (nos. 704-707).

However, relatively few of Promio’s “views” were strongly ethnographic, and even fewer of them were shot outside Europe. The predominant topics of his work are military or political displays, processions and events. He also shot quite a large number of fictional recreations of biblical or other historical events. When he did shoot scenes of everyday life, they rarely extended beyond street scenes and markets.

However, he did shoot a number of “views” of ethnographic interest while travelling in Algeria and Tunisia between December 1896 and January 1897 (see Lumière catalogue nos. 197-217), and in Egypt and various countries then in the Ottoman Empire (Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey itself) between March and April 1897 (nos. 359-417). After an interval of several years, he also shot a limited number of further “views”in Martinique between February 1902 and March 1903 (nos. 1388-1390), and finally in Algeria and Tunisia again in April 1903 (nos. 1355-1387).

In addition, he also shot a number of “views” of dances performed by performers from outside Europe attending European exhibitions. These include an Egyptian dancer at a exhibition in Geneva in May or June 1896 (catalogue no. 311), Javanese performers in London in July or August 1896 (nos. 30, 53, 56), a Russian dancer in Paris in September 1897 (no. 651) and finally, Sinhalese dancers in Lyon, also in September 1897 (nos. 771-773).

Text : Aubert and Seguin 1996. Further details may also be found here.

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