Eadweard Muybridge  

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"Male and female models, nude and clothed, were photographed in all manner of activity - walking, running, laying bricks, climbing stairs, fencing, jumping. Muybridge even photographed one girl throwing a bucket of water over another girl’s shoulders, and a mother spanking a child. His specific intention was to create an atlas for the use of artists, a visual dictionary of human and animal forms in action.” —The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present, Beaumont Newhall, 1964.

In 1887 the University of Pennsylvania published 781 of his photographic plates under the title of Animal Locomotion. "What has made these plates appealing to a general, and certainly a more prurient, audience ever since is that they are not limited to animal locomotion but they also depict human beings. The human figures are generally unclothed, with 133 sets of plates showing fully nude males photographed from the front, rear, and side. The most homoerotic of these plates are those numbered 345-348, which show two good-looking young men wrestling. In style, they are remarkably similar to the Los Angeles-based Athletic Model Guild in the 1950s and 1960s — provocative and arousing, and more explicit that their later counterparts." --cited in Silent Topics: Essays on Undocumented Areas of Silent Film (2005) by Anthony Slide


Photos such as Woman Pouring a Bucket of Water on Other Woman and Spanking a Child have led art historian Marta Braun to claim that Eadweard Muybridge perhaps sought prurience next to scientific inquiry when he made the Animal Locomotion set.

Braun argues in Picturing Time: The Work of Étienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904) that many of Muybridge's sequences of women show them engaged in "particularly awkward and ungainly actions and what were, at that time, certainly forbidden activities." She goes on in that same book by saying that "the photographs objectify erotic impulses and extend voyeuristic curiosity in language we now recognise as taken from the standard pornographic vocabulary."

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Eadweard James Muybridge (9 April 1830 – 8 May 1904) was an English photographer important for his pioneering work in photographic studies of motion and in motion-picture projection. He adopted the name Eadweard Muybridge, believing it to be the original Anglo-Saxon form of his name. He immigrated to the United States as a young man but remained obscure until 1868, when his large photographs of Yosemite Valley, California, made him world famous. Muybridge is known for his pioneering work on animal locomotion in 1877 and 1878, which used multiple cameras to capture motion in stop-action photographs, and his zoopraxiscope, a device for projecting motion pictures that pre-dated the flexible perforated film strip used in cinematography.

In his earlier years in San Francisco, Muybridge had become known for his landscape photography, particularly of the Yosemite Valley. He also photographed the Tlingit people in Alaska, and was commissioned by the United States Army to photograph the Modoc War in 1873. In 1874 he shot and killed Major Harry Larkyns, his wife's lover, and was acquitted in a jury trial on the grounds of justifiable homicide. He travelled for more than a year in Central America on a photographic expedition in 1875.

In the 1880s, Muybridge entered a very productive period at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, producing over 100,000 images of animals and humans in motion, capturing what the human eye could not distinguish as separate movements. He spent much of his later years giving public lectures and demonstrations of his photography and early motion picture sequences. He also edited and published compilations of his work, which greatly influenced visual artists and the developing fields of scientific and industrial photography.

Legacy and representation in other media

Many of Muybridge's photographic sequences have been published since the 1950s as artists' reference books. Cartoon animators often use Muybridge's photos as a reference when drawing their characters in motion. Since 1991, the company Optical Toys has published Muybridge sequences in the form of movie flipbooks.

The filmmaker Thom Andersen made a 1974 documentary titled Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer, describing his life and work.

The composer Philip Glass's opera The Photographer (1982) is based on Muybridge's murder trial, with a libretto including text from the court transcript. A promotional music video featured an excerpt of the opera and numerous Muybridge images.

The play Studies in Motion: The Hauntings of Eadweard Muybridge (2006) was a co-production between Vancouver's Electric Company Theatre and the University of British Columbia Theatre. While blending fiction with fact, it conveys Muybridge's obsession with cataloguing animal motion. The production started touring in 2010.

The Canadian poet Rob Winger wrote Muybridge's Horse: A Poem in Three Phases (2007). The long poem won the CBC Literary Award for Poetry and was nominated for the Governor General's Award for Literature, the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, and the Ottawa Book Award. It expressed his life and obsessions in a 'poetic-photographic' style.

In 1985, the music video for Larry Gowan's single "(You're a) Strange Animal" prominently featured animation rotoscoped from Muybridge's work. In 1986, a galloping horse sequence was used in the background of the John Farnham music video for the song "Pressure Down". In 1993, the rock band U2 made a video of their song "Lemon" into a tribute to Muybridge's techniques. In 2004, the electronic music group The Crystal Method made a music video to their song "Born Too Slow", which was based on Muybridge's work, including a man walking in front of a background grid.

Kingston University's Eadweard Muybridge Building is named in honour of Muybridge, who was born in nearby Kingston upon Thames, England.

His work has influenced the following:

On 9 April 2012, the 182nd birthday of Muybridge, Google honored him in a Google Doodle with an animation based on the photographs of the "horse in motion."

List of photos

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Eadweard Muybridge" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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