Albert James ("Mons") Perier
Albert James Perier was one of the pioneers of motion pictures in Australia. He left behind information that is key to understanding the history of projected motion pictures after they were first introduced to Australia in 1896. Three records in particular are important:
- A report published in The Sydney Morning Herald in June 1922;1
- An interview given late in his life to a Kodak representative;2
- Comments on Jack Cato's book The Story of the Camera in Australia.3
Brief biographical details
He was born on 22 April 1871 at Lyon, France to Edouard and Jeanne Perier.x1
On 10 August 1884 he arrived with his parents and brother, Charles at Sydney, New South Wales on board the steamer R.M.S. Sorata.
In about 1891 he started work in Sydney with the photographic company Baker and Rouse Ltd.
He married Jessie Annie Roden in 1897 in Sydney. They had three children: Norman Sydney Perier, born on 29 October 1897 in Sydney; Pauline J. Perier, born in 1899; and Reginald E. Perier, born in 1909.
He was naturalised on 11 March 1904.
(Norman Sydney Perier was killed in action in France on 9 April 1917.)
Jessie Annie Perier died on 17 December 1962, aged 82 years.
Albert James Perier died on 8 January 1964. His death notice in The Sydney Morning Herald of 9 January 1964 reads:
PERIER, Albert James. - January 8, 1964, at hospital, late of Mosman, husband of the late Jessie Perier, beloved father of Norman (deceased), Pauline and Reginald, grandfather and great-grandfather of their children.
The SMH article
The text of The Sydney Morning Herald article1 is as follows. (This article was reprinted, verbatim, in the 28 June 1922 edition of Everyones magazine.4)
SOME OF THE PIONEERS.
The rapid evolution of the kinematograph, which is demonstrated in a remarkable manner by an exhibition at the Town Hall, which will conclude to-day, is one of the wonders of the age, and in its early history in Australia some men who are still prominently associated with the industry played the part of pioneers. One of these, Mr. A.J. Perier, of the firm of Hitchman and Perier, was able yesterday to furnish some interesting information.
Mr. Perier says that the first moving picture machine introduced in Sydney before the advent of the kinematograph was the Edison kinetoscope. This machine resembled a small stereoscopic cabinet. The spectator, gazing through a sight-hole, beheld moving pictures of dancers and subjects of a similar description. The machine was operated by electricity, and was generally set in motion on the penny-in-the-slot system.
It was not until towards the end of the year 1896 that the kinematograph itself came to Sydney. Three machines for the projection of kinematograph films were landed by three different people in Sydney. Probably the first one to arrive was one imported by Mr. Perier himself, in his capacity as manager for Messrs. Baker and Rouse, and Mr. G. Neymark. This instrument was a projector manufactured by A.J. Pipon, of Paris. As the whole stock of films sent with it consisted of only 12 subjects, the owners awaited further supplies before making a public exhibition. In the meantime, the Tivoli management were able, on September 19, 1896, to exhibit publicly the instrument brought out by Mr. Carl Hertz, the conjuror, and the first subject shown to the Sydney public was a view of the traffic across London Bridge. A few days later, on September 26, 1896, the original Lumiere kinematograph was shown privately at the Lyceum Theatre, before a large audience, amongst whom was Sir Frederick Darley. The operator was Monsieur Maurice [sic] Sestier, who opened a shop in Pitt-street, near Market-street, under the name of "Salon Lumiere." This was the first home of the moving pictures in Sydney. M. Sestier was followed by Mr. James M'Mahon, who operated with a "Denemy" [sic] projector. The M'Mahon brothers secured the premises of the "Lumiere" people, and conducted a show there for some time. In the meantime the Pipon machine was taken to Melbourne, and a salon was opened in Collins-street.
The Melbourne Cup was first cinematographed in the same year by the Lumiere machine, and again in the following year, when three different operators (Messrs. Perier, Blow, and Thwaites) secured negatives. One of the operators (Mr. Thwaites) showed the finished result on the screen of the Melbourne Opera House the same night. In this he achieved a record for speed which was not beaten in the old country for many a long day. The other films were developed in Sydney in the Falk Studios by Mr. Walter Barnett and M. Sestier.
Mr. Mark Blow, of Sydney, was very early in the field, and he and his operator, Mr. Jenkins, secured many interesting records.
At the time of the festivities in regard to the foundation of the Commonwealth, Major Perry, of the Salvation Army in Melbourne, acting in conjunction with the late Government Printer, Mr. Gullick, exposed over 1000ft of film on the pageant. This film was subsequently exhibited at Her Majesty's Theatre, Sydney, during the staging of the pantomime "Australis." When it is stated the projector used was one of the original Lumieres. They were built to take a film of about 60ft only, and some idea of the task of exhibiting well over 1000ft from such an instrument can be imagined. This work was made possible by the energy of one of the Cummings brothers, who worked night and day to provide a "take up" mechanism to allow this little camera to do that work. The showman in the early days had to rely on limelight, which is always more or less unreliable for this class of work, and he had to carry his own plant with him - a proceeding which exposed it to considerable risk of damage. An extraordinary growth, scarcely dreamed of when the kinema was first produced, has marked its development in this country, as it has done in all parts of the world.
The date of the interview is not given. Perier says that he has been retired about 10 years; therefore, if he was born in 1871 and worked until he was 65 years old, the interview would have taken place in about 1946.
Criticisms of Cato's book
Perier's major issues with Cato's book5 on the history of (principally, still) photography in Australia are that he left out a lot of very relevant material, on some of the major people, on the journals, on the societies, and on the companies that provided film stock; and that the details of the activities of Marius Sestier and H. Walter Barnett are wrong.
The Kodachrome® article
Another article, that he refers to in the interview, was in the 23 August 1935 issue of The Sydney Morning Herald:6
FILMING IN COLOUR.
NEW PROCESS FOR AMATEURS.
At a largely attended meeting of the Sydney (Amateur) Movie Makers' Club, the new natural colour film, Kodachrome, was screened for the first time in Australia. This film which is the result of years of research in the laboratories of the Eastman Kodak Co of America, was enthusiastically received by those present. It was recognised that the new process marks a distinct advance on previous colour attempts. The film, which was of substandard size chiefly used by amateurs, depicted beautiful scenes, flowers in full bloom, sunsets, and "close-ups" of figures with remarkable realism.
Mr. A. J. Perier, of Messrs. Kodak, Ltd., explained that the new film was coated no less than five times. Nearest the base was an emulsion which was strongly red-sensitive. This was then over-coated with a separating layer of gelatine, containing some dye to act as a filter. Above this was placed a green sensitive emulsion. This was covered again to secure separation. Finally, there was applied a top layer which was blue-sensitive and which contained a certain amount of yellow dye. The five coatings were so thin that the total thickness of the film was little more than that of ordinary commercial film. The processing he said, was extremely complicated, and involved the treatment of the film upon three separate machines. Experience had shown, however, that it could be performed with certainty, and that the commercial production of colour pictures presented little more difficulty than the completion of black and white pictures.
References and notes
 The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1922, p.9f, The Kinema.
 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, A.J. Perier, interview (title number 224112). (Undated)
 National Library of Australia, manuscript MS1488. (Undated, but c.1956)
[x1] It is possible his name was Albert Jacques Perier, and he anglicised it when in Australia.
 Everyones, 28 June 1922, pp.18, 20.
 Jack Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia (1955).
 The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 August 1935, p.8, Filming in Colour.
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