Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge

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About

Edward Muybridge is an important figure in history because he was a bridge between still photography and recorded movement. He took the step into the visual world of motion that is still unfolding today. Muybridge’s photographs of the galloping horse foreshadowed the recorded image of man walking on the moon.

Eadweard (Born:Edward) James Muggeridge was born in the ancient town of Kingston-On-Thames, England on April 9, 1830 to a merchant and his wife, John and Susan Muggeridge. Kingston had historically hosted the coronation of English monarchs. When the coronation stone was discovered in 1850 and rededicated, it was found to carry the names of past Saxon kings including Eadweard the Elder, crowned in 900, and Eadweard the Martyr, crowned in 975. Edward Muggeridge changed his name to Eadweard Muybridge perhaps to recapture his Saxon identity.

Muybridge immigrated to New York and was employed by the London Printing and Publishing Company in 1852. Three years later as the California gold rush was making history, Muybridge moved west to San Francisco and opened a successful bookstore. He was contemplating the addition of photography to his agenda and in 1860 left San Francisco for the East Coast and eventually England to purchase photographic equipment. Traveling overland, mid-way through the journey he was involved in a serious accident, injuring his head on a boulder as he was thrown from the stagecoach. When it was possible for him to travel again he continued to England for medical attention and to recuperate. When Muybridge returned to America he brought the finest photographic equipment, the new career of landscape photography, and a new pseudonym, “Helios” which he used on occasion.

In 1867 Muybridge successfully photographed the Yosemite Valley. 1867 is also the year Secretary of State William Seward purchased Alaska from Russia. Muybridge was invited to tour Alaska with General Halleck to photographically document the new acquisition. Upon his return he photographed the Pacific railroads and the lighthouses of the Pacific Coast for the government. In 1868 Muybridge was named director of photographic surveys for the United States government. He invented one of the first camera shutters in 1869. In 1872 he documented wine production in California.

1872 was the year that Muybridge began his zealous involvement with motion photography. He was commissioned by Governor Leland Stanford to photograph the moving gait of his racehorse, Occident. Until this time the gait of a moving horse had been a mystery. When did the feet touch the ground? Did all four feet ever leave the ground at the same time? Painting the feet of the galloping horse had been an unsolved problem for artists.

Unfortunately, Muybridge had serious personal problems, and the commission had to be delayed. He was indicted for the murder of his wife’s alleged lover in 1874. Muybridge was acquitted, but felt the need to leave the country. He journeyed to Central America where he photographed Mexico, Panama and Guatemala. After successfully marketing his photographs of these areas, he returned to California. Upon his return Muybridge created a panorama view of San Francisco. Using a camera with 20×24 inch plates, he produced 16 sequential images of the city. The prints were matched perfectly together and mounted to linen, then folded accordingly and placed between leather covers.

In 1877 Muybridge chose to accept again the challenge of the moving horse. His first attempt was rejected because the photographs were retouched (which was customary at the time). The project was repeated, this time using 12 cameras, each hooked to an electrical apparatus that would trip the shutters as the horse galloped past. A press conference was called to witness the experiment so that no doubt could exist about the authenticity of the photographs. Governor Stanford’s racing mare, Sallie Gardner, was the model, July 19, 1878 was the date, and the experiment was a great success.

Muybridge invented the zoopraxiscope in 1879, a machine that allowed him to project up to two hundred single images on a screen. In 1880 he gave his first presentation of projected moving pictures on a screen to a group at the California School of Fine Arts, thus becoming the father of motion pictures. Muybridge met with Thomas Edison who had invented the phonograph, but nothing productive came of their meeting. Edison later invented the kinescope, which was the precursor of the movie camera used today.

Muybridge was offered and accepted a commission to continue his work at the University of Pennsylvania. From 1884 through 1885 he produced over 100,000 photographs of human and animal motion. He used nude models, which were usually students from the university, and animals from the zoo as subjects. For one series titled “Ascending Incline. Descending Incline” Muybridge used himself as the nude model. 781 of the photographs were published in a book titles Animal Locomotion; An Electro-Photographic Investigation of Animal Movement. The text was inclusive in eleven volumes and sold for six hundred dollars. Needless to say, the price was restrictive and still would be today. Later the work was reduced to two volumes, Animals in Motion in 1899 and The Human Figure in Motion in 1901.

By Vi Whitmire For IPHF

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