The Weird World of Eadweard Muybridge
Born in Kingston upon Thames, England, on April 9th, 1830, Eadweard Muybridge had a lifetime of accomplishment and notoriety that spanned science, photography, art and even murder. He was a pioneer in the field of motion studies and is widely considered to be the father of modern cinematography.
Muybridge was a self-taught photographer who initially worked as a bookseller, but was inspired to become a photographer after seeing a daguerreotype in 1855. He moved to the United States in 1867 and began photographing the scenery of California. He took on the name Eadweard Muybridge in 1872, the name being derived from the Old English names “Eadweard” and “Muygridge”.
In 1872, Muybridge was commissioned by the former Governor of California Leland Stanford to prove whether all four hooves of a running horse left the ground at the same time. To prove this, Muybridge set up a battery of 12 cameras along a racetrack and timed the shutters to go off when the horse galloped past. This was the first successful use of what is now known as stop-motion photography. The resulting series of photos, which became known as the “Muybridge Sequence”, proved that all four hooves of the horse were indeed off the ground at the same time.
Muybridge continued to experiment and refine his technique, eventually developing a zoopraxiscope, a device that allowed him to project a series of photos on a spinning glass disc to create the illusion of motion. He went on to use this device to create the world’s first motion picture, titled “The Horse in Motion”, which was presented at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. This was the first time that motion pictures were presented to the public.
Muybridge's work was largely credited with the development of the movie camera, and he became renowned for his pioneering work in the field of motion studies. He also continued to take photographs of the California landscape, which were exhibited in the United States and Europe. His photographs of Yosemite Valley were some of the most iconic images of the 19th century.
In 1874, Muybridge was charged with the murder of his wife’s lover, Major Harry Larkyns. Although he was found not guilty due to temporary insanity, the trial caused a scandal in the United States and Europe and brought an abrupt end to his career.
After the trial, Muybridge returned to England, where he continued to take photographs and develop motion studies. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1881 and was awarded the Royal Photographic Society’s Progress Medal in 1882 for his contribution to the development of photography.
Muybridge died in 1904 at the age of 74, but his work and legacy continue to live on. His pioneering work in the field of motion studies is still used in modern cinematography, and his iconic photographs of the Californian landscape remain some of the most famous images of the 19th century.