On This Day … 15 June [2022]


Events

  • 1878 – Eadweard Muybridge takes a series of photographs to prove that all four feet of a horse leave the ground when it runs; the study becomes the basis of motion pictures.

Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge (09 April 1830 to 08 May 1904, born Edward James Muggeridge) was an English photographer known for his pioneering work in photographic studies of motion, and early work in motion-picture projection. He adopted the first name “Eadweard” as the original Anglo-Saxon form of “Edward”, and the surname “Muybridge”, believing it to be similarly archaic.

Born in Kingston upon Thames in the United Kingdom, at age 20 he emigrated to America as a bookseller, first to New York City, and eventually to San Francisco. In 1860, he planned a return trip to Europe, and suffered serious head injuries in a stagecoach crash in Texas en route. He spent the next few years recuperating in Kingston upon Thames, where he took up professional photography, learned the wet-plate collodion process, and secured at least two British patents for his inventions. He returned to San Francisco in 1867, a man with a markedly changed personality. In 1868, he exhibited large photographs of Yosemite Valley, and began selling popular stereographs of his work.

In 1874, Muybridge shot and killed Major Harry Larkyns, his wife’s lover, but was acquitted in a controversial jury trial, on the grounds of justifiable homicide. In 1875, he travelled for more than a year in Central America on a photographic expedition.

Today, Muybridge is best known for his pioneering chronophotography of animal locomotion between 1878 and 1886, which used multiple cameras to capture the different positions in a stride, and for his zoopraxiscope, a device for projecting painted motion pictures from glass discs that pre-dated the flexible perforated film strip used in cinematography. From 1883-1886, he entered a very productive period at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, producing over 100,000 images of animals and humans in motion, occasionally capturing what the human eye could not distinguish as separate moments in time.

During his later years, Muybridge gave many public lectures and demonstrations of his photography and early motion picture sequences, traveling frequently in England and Europe to publicise his work in cities such as London and Paris. He also edited and published compilations of his work, some of which are still in print today, which greatly influenced visual artists and the developing fields of scientific and industrial photography. He retired to his native England permanently in 1894. In 1904, the year of his death, the Kingston Museum was opened in his hometown, and it continues to house a substantial collection of his works in a dedicated gallery.

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