From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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 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:
- Étienne-Jules Marey — recorded the first series of live action photos with a single camera by a method of chronophotography
- Thomas Eakins — American artist who worked with and continued Muybridge's motion studies, and incorporated the findings into his own artwork
- William Dickson — credited as inventor of the motion picture camera
- Thomas Edison — developed and owned patents for motion picture cameras
- Marcel Duchamp — artist, painted Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2
- Harold Eugene Edgerton — pioneered stroboscopic and high speed photography and film, producing an Oscar-winning short movie and many striking photographic sequences
- Francis Bacon — artist who made numerous paintings from photographs by Muybridge
- John Gaeta — used the principles of Muybridge's photography to create the bullet time slow-motion technique of the 1999 movie The Matrix.
- Steven Pippin — so-called Young British Artist who converted a row of laundromat washing machines into sequential cameras in the style of Muybridge
- Stanford and the trot question
- Media arts
- Precursors of film
- Eadweard Muybridge perhaps sought prurience next to scientific inquiry
- Animated sequence of a buffalo (American bison) galloping