Lumières in Lyon

December 12, 2010. We’re in Lyon for the final day of the annual Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières). It began in 1852. The people of Lyon illuminated the fronts of their houses, churches and buildings with candles. There were no street lights yet; December nights could be bleak and very dark.

Lighting designers, architects, gaffers, engineers, filmmakers and video artists come from around the world to play with light for over 4 million spectators. The Fourvière Basilica on the hill above Lyon radiates Xenon lights piercing the sky above. Bridges reflect dazzling shapes and colors onto the Saone and Rhone rivers below. Building facades become animated with video projectors. A giant ferris wheel becomes one of the world’s largest movie screens.

Which brings me to the other famous Lumières of Lyon: the brothers Louis and Auguste. What a great name for the inventors of projected cinema: “Light.” Surely as children, they visited the Fête des Lumières. I wouldn’t be surprised if the projections and plays of light by candles and torches onto building surfaces inspired what was to come next.

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