“…we have become so accustomed to see [the galloping horse] in art that it imperceptibly dominated our understanding, and we think the representation to be unimpeachable, until we throw off all our preconceived impressions on one side, and seek the truth by independent observation from Nature herself.” — Eadweard Muybridge
Edward James Muggeridge was born on this day in Kingston upon Thames, England in 1830. Today is the 183rd anniversary of his birth.
He was one of four boys born to John and Susan Muggeridge. John ran a grain and coal business from the first floor of their house while the family lived on the second floor.
When he was 25, Edward emigrated to San Francisco and started a book selling business. California had just become a state and San Fransisco was plush with Gold Rush money. At 30, in 1860 he decided to go back to England on a book buying expedition. As he travelled across the US en route to New York City his stagecoach had a terrible accident. He was thrown from the coach (another passenger died) and hit his head on a rock. It took him months to recover from his double vision, confusion and impaired senses. His behavior was erratic and he was emotionally unstable for years afterwards.
In England he took up photography. He studied the wet-plate collodion process and learned composition and other skills. He changed his last name to Muybridge and returned to San Fransisco. His reputation as a photographer grew. He specialized in landscapes and architectural photos he took using a converted carriage as a darkroom. He used the pseudonym Helios for his published photographic works. (Helios was also the name of his studio.)
gained worldwide fame photographing animal and human movement imperceptible to the human eye. Hired by railroad baron Leland Stanford in 1872, Muybridge used photography to prove that there was a moment in a horse’s gallop when all four hooves were off the ground at once. He spent much of his later career at the University of Pennsylvania, producing thousands of images that capture progressive movements within fractions of a second. [Freeze Frame.com]
He developed a high-speed shutter and electronic timer and used as many as 24 cameras to take his rapid motion pictures. Because of his advances in photography moving pictures were on the horizon.
Muybridge actually came tantalizingly close to producing cinema himself with his projection device the ‘Zoöpraxiscope’. With this device, Muybridge lectured across Europe and America, using the Zoöpraxiscope to animate sequences from his motion studies. [Eadweard Muybridge Collection]
He was an eccentric man, he married a woman less than half his age, then in a jealous fit shot the man who might have fathered their seven-month-old son Florado. Muybridge was tried for murder, but pleaded insanity because of his stage-coach accident 14 years before. He was acquitted on the grounds of “Justifiable Homicide.” He left the States for planned work in Central America.
Eadweard Muybridge eventually went back to England where he published Animals in Motion (1899) and The Human Figure in Motion (1901), He died on May 8, 1904 in Kingston upon Thames.
April 9th, 2013 at 10:32 pm
Wow, this was so interesting! I knew nothing about this man but what a fascinating life he led.
April 10th, 2013 at 12:14 am
I’d seen some of his photos in museums, but I learned a lot too.:-)