Ambroise-François Parnaland Ambroise-Francois Parnaland

French cameraman, inventor

Born at Tournus, Saone-et-Loire in 1854, Ambroise-François Parnaland arrived in Paris in 1890 as a chartered accountant. Like his brother Louis, he was fascinated by things mechanical and they both filed several patents for various mechanisms. On 24 April 1895, Ambroise-François decided to found the firm Parnaland Frères to exploit his patent inventions. The logo 'P.F.' would later cause confusion with that of Pathé Frères. Parnaland was soon attracted by chronophotography. On 26 February 1896 he filed his first patent for a camera, the Phototheagraphe. In this, the movement of the film was made by a piston and the film was unperforated. After other clumsy attempts, Parnaland reached near-perfection with a patent of 9 June, having designed an efficient movement mechanism. The Parnaland camera, the Cinepar, was marketed in 1896. The following year, Parnaland made his first films, constructed and sold his cameras, and opened a shop at 5 rue Saint-Denis. In 1898, he filmed the surgical operations of Dr Eugène-Louis Doyen, with the cameraman Clément-Maurice. But Parnaland marketed the films, without Doyen's permission, and Doyen took him to court. Meanwhile the Parnaland camera was used by Clément-Maurice to make the Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre sound films. In 1904, Parnaland collaborated with Emmanuel Ventujol, a former colleague of Lumière. Several dozen films, intended for fairground use, were produced up to 1907. At that date, Ventujol left the firm and Charles Jourjon, a lawyer, decided to provide financial backing. On 22 April 1907, the limited company 'films l'Eclair, anciens établissements Parnaland', was created by Jourjon and Parnaland, and a catalogue listing all the Parnaland films made between 1897 and 1907 was published. But the beginnings of the Eclair company were difficult and costly (a chateau at Epinay was bought to serve as studio and office). Parnaland, a somewhat naive partner, was soon removed from management. Between 1910 and 1911, he was again making and marketing cameras, but business went badly. In 1912, Parnaland returned to accountancy. He died a year later on 23 May 1913 while the Eclair company, the third French firm after Pathé and Gaumont, triumphed on the screens with the adventures of Zigomar.

Laurent Mannoni