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  Albert Londe

Joseph Albert Londe was the first of five children born to Edouard and Anne-Marie Bourdon Londe in La Ciotat, France on November 26, 1858. The senior Londe, a civil engineer, relocated his family to Paris in 1866 so he could work on a new railway line (Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée). After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1875, the junior Londe began two years of military service. Although there is no evidence he ever received a chemistry degree, Mr. Londe became an assistant in Edmond Frémy’s Paris laboratory upon his military discharge. It is believed his association with photography commenced during this period, and by 1879, the young man was a member of the Societe Francaise de Photographie, and became an expert in the silver gelatin process.

Within two years, Mr. Londe had invented what is believed to be one of the first instant shutters, and shortly thereafter joined the staff of Jean-Martin Charcot (a former instructor of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud) at his laboratory, where he quickly organized a photography department for experimentation and research. His foray into clinical photography began by chronicling the convulsive movements of Dr. Charcot’s patients during fits of hysteria. Meanwhile, Mr. Londe was deeply immersed in camera development, inventing the first reflex and portable camera (a precursor of the Rolleiflex), and a photoelectric camera, which had nine lenses in a circular arrangement specially designed to film patient movements during epileptic seizures. This led to a prestigious position at Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, Paris. There, he invented a variable spacing stereoscopic shutter, and applied for several equipment patents.

Mr. Londe married Isabelle Fourtoul in 1887, and began receiving recognition for his hysteria photography, with several images published in Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière. He also founded the Societe d’Excursions des Amateurs Photographies to assist both serious amateur and fledgling professional photographers. In 1888, he published La Photographie Moderne, which is believed to be the first textbook on medical photography. Its more technical sequel, La Photographie Medicale, was published seven years’ later. Mr. Londe’s inventions continued with a 12-lens’ camera that featured an electrical release that the operator could set to different intervals. The mechanical shutter for this device was manufactured by Parisian watchmaker Charles Dessoudeix. In later years, he headed both the photographic and radiography departments at Salpêtrière (where he became a pioneer in x-ray photography) before retiring to become mayor of Château du Breau.

Fifty-nine-year-old Mayor Albert Londe died at his Château du Breau castle estate on September 11, 1917. Though largely forgotten today, Mr. Londe’s contributions to medical photography far exceeded his misleading label as an amateur photographer. Furthermore, his camera and apparatus inventions paved the way for modern photography, and many of his applications are still being used in some form in the twenty-first century.

2018 Albert Londe (URL:

2018 Albert Londe (1858-1917) (URL:

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 550, 869-870.

2007 The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography edited by Michael R. Peres (Burlington, MA: Focal Press/Elsevier), p. 570.

2004 The Great Parade edited by Jean Clair (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), p. 139.

2008 Human Motion: Understanding, Modelling, Capture, and Animation edited by Bodo Rosenhahn, Reinhard Klette, Dimitris Metaxas (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer), p. 12.

2001 Impossible Presence: Surface and Screen in the Photogenic Era edited by Terry Smith (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), pp. 83-84.

2004 Male Bodies: A Photographic History of the Nude by Emmanuel Cooper (Munich, Germany: Prestel), p. 36.

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2020-05-02 16:57:41

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