Muy blog ARCHIVE

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2007
What happened to the money? - Muybridge, Bank Director
Moving Pictures (for Christmas)
The Horse in Motion - on the web
Fugue A poem
Company Director. A failed venture?
Animal Locomotion prints, 50 cents. Boston printseller
Extinct discs. Muybridge on laserdisc
Muybridge Cyanotypes. Now online
Early Popular Visual Culture. Muybridge-related articles
Charles Boyle. Muybridge poem
Stop-Start Boxers? Zoopraxiscope disc
The Magic Wheel. Phenakistiscope disc in Knowledge
Batteries not included.... Francis Galton's motion viewing device
The Human Figure in Motion. Introduction to 1900 Muybridge book
Bill Douglas Centre. Muybridge exhibition
The Photographer. Philip Glass CD
The Man Who Stopped Time, at last. Review of Brian Clegg biography
The Man Who Stopped Time. Announcement of publication
Poster, 50 Years of Kinematography. Exhibition poster, Prague, 1945-46
San Francisco Morning Call, 18 July 1871. Muybridge and Flora are married
Zoopraxiscopical 'fans'. Paper souvenirs at the Chicago Exposition
Comparative timeline
Photographing Birds. Muybrige photographs a cockatoo, Philadelphia Zoo
The first edited motion picture? Deer Hunt zoopraxiscope disc
Photographing a Lion. Muybidge photographs lion and lioness, Philadelphia Zoo
The Tablet of Mena. Animal motion on ancient artefact
Digital searching: newspapers and journals. Looking for Muybridge
Arthur B. Frost. Muybridge cartoon
Stanford University exhibition. Eadweard Muybridge: The Central American Journey
Bits of Travel at Home(1878) by Helen Hunt Jackson. Muybridge in Yosemite
A face in the clouds. Rulofson photograph - with Muybridge cloud effect?


1 December 2007


What happened to the money?

Following on from our revelation that Muybridge was a director of two companies in the UK in 1865-66, The Ottoman Company, and The Bank of Turkey, here are some more details.

Advertisements for The Ottoman Company (Limited) set up c.1865, list Muybridge as one of nine directors. The advertisement appeared in major newspapers in England, Scotland, and Ireland. The purpose was to 'Invite applications for the capital of The Bank of Turkey (Limited)', the Prospectus stating that 'This company is formed at the express solicitation of merchants and others engaged in trading and monetary operations in the Ottoman Empire...' . Shortly afterwards - perhaps as a result of problems in the money market at that time, or for some other reason - those who had bought shares in The Bank of Turkey became nervous, and wanted the company to be wound up voluntarily so that they could get their money back. There was a problem: some monies raised by sale of shares in the Bank of Turkey (5,000 or so) had been paid to the original Ottoman Company, in order for them to set up branches of the new bank. Although that clearly was not now going to happen, there were problems with getting the money returned to the Bank of Turkey.

There were attempts (by a disgruntled shareholder) to have this money paid back through the courts, with talk of "rigging the market" and a "secret arrangement made between some of the defendants who were directors of both companies...", but without success. It was ruled that the arrangement was within the terms of the company's articles. The Lord Chief Justice stated at the end of one session that: "...He could not help expressing his regret ... that professional gentlemen should mix themselves up in these schemes for the concoction of companies; some of which might turn out well, but many of which, as every day's experience in courts of justice showed, turned out to be illusory; and new delusive schemes by which shareholders might be induced to part with their money, and which in the long run only afforded employment to the courts in which companies were wound up."

Two Extraordinary General Meetings of The Bank of Turkey's shareholders were held in London, on 24 April and 17 May 1866, which Muybridge himself chaired. It was decided to arrange for The Bank of Turkey to be wound up. What happened to the monies paid to The Ottoman Company is not known.

The nature of Muybridge's involvement, as (apparently) Director of both companies, is not clear at this stage, but further details are out there waiting to be discovered.


2 17 November 2007


Moving Pictures (for Christmas)

This kit, produced in association with Middlesex University, 'gives you the opportunity to see into the past itself by bringing to life the people and animals as Muybridge photographed them over 125 years ago. The kit contains the parts for a modern tachyscope whose wheel is powered by an electric motor.'

See it at: www.mutr.co.uk (item TPTRK 001), 21.50 ex.VAT.

Ironically, the technology involved - intermittent electric illumination - is that used by Mubridge's 'rival', Ottomar Anschutz. The website says stocks are low - but maybe enough left to be the Christmas Gift answer for that difficult-to-buy-for family member?


30 October 2007


Plate from The Horse in Motion, Dr. J.B.D. Stillman
(c) Kingston Museum

The horse in motion
as shown by instantaneous photography, with a study on animal mechanics founded on anatomy and the revelations of the camera, in which is demonstrated the theory of quadrupedal locomotion

The book by J.D.B Stillman (pub: Boston: James R. Osgood, 1882), commissioned by Muybridge's patron, the railroad baron Leland Stanford, was based on Muybridge's now famous photographic studies of a horse galloping. But master and reluctant servant had fallen out, and the book was published under Stillman's name, giving Muybridge negligible credit. The book contains detailed description of the studies into the motion of the horse (and other quadrupeds), with five of Muybridge's photographs and ninety-one lithographs based on his photographs, plus line drawings. The book's publication caused considerable embarrassment to Muybridge at the time, as his contribution to the scientific studies was now questioned by several authorities, but it is an important publication nonetheless. It's now available as a free download from the Internet Archive in DjVU (6MB), PDF (67MB) and TXT (279KB) formats.
These notes are from The Bioscope, a highly recommended webiste on early and silent cinema, updated daily.


9 October 2007

Fugue

The Muybridge poem 'Fugue' by John Davies is included in his new collection, Shedman, to be published by Pighog Press in January 2008. Copies priced 9.99 plus post and packaging can be ordered online at www.pighog.co.uk 'Fugue' was commissioned in 2003 as part of THE SOUTH's Project poetry! - a series of commissions for poets working with visual artists around the theme 'place of birth'. (THE SOUTH is a literary arts development organisation based in Brighton, England.) John Davies was based at Kingston and decided to focus his poem on Eadweard Muybridge.

A version of the poem with visuals by students from the University of Brighton was shown at the University of Sussex in May 2006. He is now working on a new audio-visual version which should be complete by the end of 2007.


29 September 2007

Share Certificate, for sale at: www.scripophily.net/otcolien.html

Muybridge, Company Director

A search of the recently digitized Irish Times came up with two hits for Muybridge in November, 1865. I presumed that these would be notices of departures for America, but not so. Advertisements for The Ottoman Company (Limited) list 'Edward J Muybridge, Esq, late Merchant, San Francisco, 4 Brompton Square, London' as one of nine directors. The advertisement's purpose was to 'Invite applications for the capital of The Bank of Turkey (Limited)', the Prospectus stating that 'This company is formed at the express solicitation of merchants and others engaged in trading and monetary operations in the Ottoman Empire...' A note on the web indicates that the Ottoman Company folded within a year of being formed, so most likely The Bank of Turkey (Limited) never traded.

Perhaps Muybridge lost heavily on the venture, prompting his return to America.


24 July 2007

Animal Locomotion prints, 50 cents

This catalogue from Holman's Print Shop, Boston, dates from October 1935. Individual plates from Animal Locomotion were being sold for 50 cents each.


15 July 2007


Cover of the 1990 laserdisc, from Flickr (more here)

Extinct discs

Muybridge's Zoopraxiscope discs are just one example of numerous motion picture disc formats from the past. This Laserdic (CAV format) Eadweard Muybridge: Motion Studies was produced in 1990 by the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. I have never seen the contents, but it included animations of Muybridge images, and a voiceover by an actor playing Muybridge. The cover notes are yet another example of the confusion that has always existed concerning exactly what it was that Muybridge showed on the screen, in motion. The main notes (apparently by the producer James Sheldon) state: "[he] developed a way to project his images and synthesize motion." In the following text by the disc's producer Robert Stein, we read "...how frustrated Muybridge must have been since he lacked the technology to display the photos in continuous motion." [Italics in the original]. This apparent contradiction is typical of publications about Muybridge and his work.


14 July 2007


"Picking up ball - throwing it." Cyanotype proof. Smithsonian Institution

Muybridge Cyanotypes

Now online - no less than 771 Cyanotype proofs from the University of Pennyslvania work. To quote the Flickr website: 'Muybridge's cyanotypes are working proofs, the contact prints he made from more than 20,000 negatives he took at the University of Pennsylvania between 1884 and 1886 while photographing human and animal subjects in motion from lateral (parallel), front and rear positions. Since the original negatives no longer exist, the cyanotypes provide us with the opportunity to see the pictures Muybridge achieved before he edited and cropped them for publication..From the Photographic History Collection, National Museum of American History' Flickr page here (Allow time for busy page to download.)


12 July 2007

Early Popular Visual Culture

The current issue of the journal Early Popular Visual Culture (Vol.5, issue 1, published by Routledge) includes two articles with Muybridge content.

'Movables, Movies, Mobility; Nineteenth-century looking and reading', by Eric Faden, is about movable and pop-up books. The article (in part) compares the movable's traits with early examples from Eadweard Muybridge's chronophotographs, the Lumière Brothers' actualities, Edison's kinetoscope films and early Méliès 'trick' films, and contemporary movies.

I was pleased to see my old friend Theodore Brown, designer of the 1930s Daily Express Children's Annuals and Bookano books rubbing shoulders in print with Muybridge. There's lots to think about here, and the author makes a good start in examining the links between the animated printed page, and cinema.


Marey wheel photograph of unidentified model with notation

'Men and Horses in Motion', by Paul Myron Hillier, concerns the chronophotographs of Thomas Eakins, and proposes that The motion photographs Eakins produced were not aids for his paintings or products of artistic investigation; rather they are scientific documents that speak to his desire to contribute to and be a part of the field of science.

I'm not sufficiently knowledgeable about Eakins' work to comment on the basic premise, but I would question Hillier's treatment of one of the illustrations.

The author notes that both Gordon Hendricks (in The Life and Work of Thomas Eakins) and Phyllis D. Rosenzweig (The Thomas Eakins Collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden) attribute the handwriting on the front of the photograph to Muybridge, but Hillier queries this, as William Homer ('Eakins, Muybridge, and the motion picture process') attributes the writing to Eakins. Hillier himself suggests that the writing is more likely by Eakins.

Now, identifying the writer of this photograph's annotations isn't simply a question of antiquarian interest. Although Paul Hillier's account is only an endnote, it's a half-page endnote, and a confirmed attribution of this writing to Eakins would arguably strengthen the author's premise that Eakins was especially interested in the scientific, rather than simply the aesthetic and artistic, details of humans and animals in motion.

So let's take this one step at a time.

First: Hillier suggests that it is quite likely that the writing is in Eakins' hand, rather than Muybridge's.

In my opinion, it's Muybridge's writing.

1) The writing on the 'Eakins wheel photograph' (I have reversed the tones to make comparison easier).
2) Writing on the lens chart of Muybridge's slide lantern box. (A small example that is readily accessible as I write this.)


writing on Eakins wheel photograph of The Jump.


Writing on lens chart, Muybridge's slide lantern box

Note the characteristic letter 'l', for instance. See also the lantern slide label illustrated on p.141 of Kevin McDonnell's Eadweard Muybridge, the man who invented the moving picture.

I would suggest that the final capital 'E' (see large picture) is most likely Muybridge recording the fact that the photographic sequence was produced under the direction of Eakins, rather than being one of his (Muybridge's) own sequences. (The fact that the annotations are in Muybridge's hand also perhaps suggests that Muybridge was responsible for setting the camera adjustments for this sequence, and has transferred his technical notes to the photographic negative.)

Second: 'The image must have been taken with Eakins' third Marey-wheel camera, which he did not perfect until August of 1884, after he quit working with Muybridge.'

That may be the case - I confess to having only very sketchy knowledge of the wheel cameras - but it doesn't alter the fact that the annotations appear to be by Muybridge.

Third: 'The scientific annotations are entirely in accord with Eakins' purpose and goal with motion photography.'

Isn't there something of a circular argument here? Since these annotations are presented as graphic evidence to support the author's contention that Eakins' 'purpose and goal' was 'scientific', I would say that it is unacceptable to suggest that: his purpose and goal was 'scientific', therefore the annotations are by him.

Fourth: 'The work of Marta Braun persuasively demonstrates that Muybridge was not only unfit for scientific documentation, but that he had little interest in it.'

The annotations are simply a technical record of the camera settings (lens openings, exposure frequency and duration), with one sentence describing the horizontal / vertical alignment. They are exactly the kind of technical details that appear elsewhere in Muybridge's work.

Fifth: 'Anecdotally, the writing style does indeed appear to match written documents known to be Eakins' at this time.'

We don't know what Hillier means by 'anecdotally'. I have only seen Eakins' writing from an earlier period, but Hendricks wrote books on both Muybridge and Eakins, and he credits the writing as being by Muybridge. I have seen enough examples of Muybridge's slide-labelling, and other writing, to immediately recognise this; which is a particular style of 'printing' (each letter individually written) that he sometimes used, and differs from his other style of 'joined up' handwriting. It would be useful to see similar captioning that's definitely by Eakins, which I have not yet located. I am genuinely open to evidence that I am mistaken in this attribution, so please comment if you have any thoughts or further evidence that could be useful.

But if we accept Paul Hillier's definitions of 'scientific', etc. - and having established here, I would suggest, that the annotations are in fact in Muybridge's writing - then using Hillier's own logic:

* Muybridge was fit for scientific documentation.

* Muybridge was interested in scientific documentation.

I need to know more about Eakins and his chronophotography, and this article has spurred me on to tracking down copies of Hendricks' book The Life and Work of Thomas Eakins, and other, more recent articles cited by Hillier. This website should include more information on Eakins and his Muybridge-related work within the chronology, and I intend to add more, when I'm sufficiently informed by the specialist works published to date. In the meantime I'm preparing an article - working title 'Muybridge and his scientific method' - that should help to clear up some widely held misconceptions.

So - there's a great deal to stimulate and engage the reader in this issue of the Journal; with a much wider variety of subject matter than I've touched on here. (I have to declare an interest - I'm newly appointed joint book review editor.) If you don't already subscribe - the URL for further information is:
www.tandf.co.uk/journals/repv

[Revised March 2010]


3 July 2007

Muybridge poem

Here's something I don't remember seeing before - a poetry collection by Charles Boyle, The Very Man, published by Carcanet in 1993. It contains a 7-verse Muybridge poem.

Eadweard Muybridge
'My name is Muybridge' said the nightime visitor,
'and I have a message for you from my wife.'
Then he fired a single shot

from a Smith & Wesson No.2...
The women sitting, the men discussing
in low voices, the future rushing in

from left to right margin, then back to the left-
after Major Harry Larkyns had staggered back,
trailed blood through the house and out the back door.

(etc.)

My copy came from Oxfam, 99p.


13 June 2007

Stop-Start Boxers?

A careful reading of an 1882 review of Muybridge's lecture at the Royal Institution, London, reveals what could be an interesting fact concerning the photography of a boxing sequence staged at Palo Alto. The Prince of Wales asks to see Muybridge's boxing pictures.

'...promptly there was thrown upon the screen two athletes, who pounded away at one another right merrily, to the infinite delight of the audience in general and the Prince of Wales in particular.... Mr. Muybridge, in this case, had taken rapid successive pictures of a pair of boxers as they assumed one fighting position after another, and then these photographs were rapidly thrown on the screen in the same order by means of his zoepractiscope. (sic)'

This description of the production procedure suggests that Muybridge had not photographed the boxers in actual real-time motion, but as a succession of still poses. If we look at the original images, this is indeed the effect suggested. There can be little doubt that the reviewer, with his description of the production technique, meant the 'pose-by-pose' method, as later in the same column Muybridge's procedure is compared with an earlier posed sequence (of a steam engine) taken for Sir Charles Wheatstone's motion photo viewer in 1870.

For Muybridge to capture a good sequence of such a bout in just a few images, in a second or two, would have required some luck as well as judgement. By posing the boxers in static 'key' positions, far more control would have been achievable. Alternatively it's possible that Muybridge photographed several action sequences and then selected certain images from each to produce the final selection. However, if these pictures were indeed taken while the boxers adopted static poses, then there was no scientific value in this particular sequence - which is perhaps why Muybridge comments: "I don't know that these pictures teach us anything useful ... but they are generally found amusing." The full account is reproduced here.


1 June 2007

The Magic Wheel

In January 1882 the English magazine Knowledge published two phenakistiscope discs based on Muybridge horse sequences. The first of these was of Abe Edgington trotting, and the second was a horse and rider, shown here. (Click here for high-resolution version). The accompanying texts are given in the chronology.


30 May 2007

Batteries not included....

...because they weren't needed. Neither was photography. Francis Galton, of eugenics fame (or should that be 'infamy'?) devised an optical instrument that could freeze a galloping horse's legs - viewed directly, with no photography required. Galton has several connections with Muybridge: he was responsible for the Royal Society snubbing Muybridge during the latter's first lecture tour; and he used Muybridge's sequence photographs in some of his experimental work. This optical device was similar in principle to the mechanical wheel lantern device used by Muybridge in his early lectures to demonstrate, live, how a moving object could appear 'frozen' by the use of short 'exposures' (illustrated and described more fully in Eadweard Muybridge, The Kingston Museum Bequest). More on Galton's device here......


19 May 2007

The Human Figure in Motion

The introduction to Muybridge's final book The Human Figure in Motion, together with an Appendix of facsimile signatures of some of the subscribers to his earlier Animal Locomotion plates, has now been added to this website HERE


18 May 2007

Bill Douglas Centre

An exhibition celebrating the life of Eadweard Muybridge is currently on diplay at the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture, University of Exeter. It includes examples of his early stereophotography, his panoramic view of San Francisco and illustrations from his published work on the photography of motion.


15 May 2007

The Photographer

A GENTLEMAN'S HONOR
Horses in the air
Feet on the ground
Never seen
This picture before....

(c) Dunvagen Music Publishers Inc. and Index Music Inc.

Philip Glass's music/theatre piece The Photographer was originally released on vinyl in the 80s, and is still available on a 1990 CD. A somewhat relentless, repetitious score seems to capture very well the obsessional nature of Muybridge and his work. Lots for sale on Amazon.com.


12 May 2007

The Man Who Stopped Time, at last

In his Amazon blog, under the above title, popular science author Brian Clegg tells us: "After a long wait, the Man Who Stopped Time has been published...Seeing the finished book for the first time is quite emotional: it's the realization of a long process as something I can hold in my hands."

I first became aware of The Man Who Stopped Time when it had a slightly different title and a different cover. And yes, it does seem a long time since the book was announced. But then Robert Haas's biography of Muybridge was announced as 'just completed' in 1963 (his research started in 1952), and in fact didn't appear until 1976, and there was a similar gestation period for Gordon Hendricks's book. So a couple of years' wait for Brian Clegg's The Man Who Stopped Time. The Illuminating Story of Eadweard Muybridge- Pioneer Photographer, Father of the Motion Picture, Murderer didn't seem so bad, especially with so much promised. Clegg's website popularscience.co.uk explains about these earlier efforts: 'There are books certainly, but they lose the man behind the photographs; they are picture books with text. They feel (sic) to bring out the real story.'

To dismiss the Haas and Hendricks books as 'picture books with text' - each is based on, and both succinctly incorporate, half a lifetime's research - could be considered arrogant. And the widespread distribution of Muybridge's pictures (which, apart from the Animal Locomotion photographs, were not generally available previously) through those two publications, did much to create the interest in the man, from which Brian Clegg's book will benefit.

Clegg's website tells us that he has written four popular science books. A Brief History of Infinity reached #1 position on Amazon in the general Popular Science category, so clearly he is well established in the field. The only other book of Clegg's that I have read is Light Years. An Exploration of Mankind's Enduring Fascination with Light (2001). This included a couple of pages on Muybridge, explaining that 'the flamboyant photographer mounted his sequence of photographs on great display boards and set off across the Atlantic to begin a European lecture tour'. It seems that Clegg's Muybridge research wasn't well advanced at that time.

So how did the research eventually proceed? A page on Brian Clegg's personal website tells of his trek to Muybridge's final abode in Kingston, where the present occupier failed to answer the doorbell. Another 'news' item announces the discovery at the Royal Society of Francis Galton's important report on Muybridge's lecture text - which I've had in my Muybridge folder for a decade, since it was sent to me by film historian Richard Brown; it's noted in the Kingston Museum Bequest book.

If you're reading this Mr Clegg, you can stop flinching now. That's almost the end of my negative carping. As stated in this book, '...there are few artists or writers who haven't found it necessary to be effusive about their own work when producing a "puff."' What matters is the quality of the book, and The Man Who Stopped Time is an excellent and much needed popular biography of an enduring character. Clegg explains: "What I've tried to do in this book is open up the science behind Muybridge's work, but always keeping it as a story of a fascinating man. I hope that's what comes across." I think it does.

In each case the technical explanations take up a couple of pages or so, written in an accessible style, and this is just enough to put across an accurate and helpful dose of the necessary science and technology.

Subjects explored include the camera obscura, the origins of photography and its early chemistry, stereoscopes, photographic enlargement, microphotography, the Francis Galton eugenics connection, and other subjects not related to image-making; including a discussion of monogamy.

The description of anamorphic distortion - the images on the Zoopraxiscope discs needed to be elongated in production, as they were compressed on projection - is good so far as it goes, explaining that this particular variety of the effect specifically relates to images seen by way of moving slots, but doesn't give the name of this unusual type of anamorphosis; anorthoscopic distortion. (The anorthoscope and its associated images, designed to demonstrate this effect, date back to Joseph Plateau's early experiments.) An account of the history of aspect ratios, prompted by an explanation of anamorphic photography is again well written, but could have mentioned that Muybridge's Zoopraxiscope, perhaps uniquely, has sliding metal side plates, enabling the shape of the projected image to be changed at will.

I was especially pleased to find a modern description of motion perception in place of the usual 'persistence of vision' stuff, and I learned quite a lot about the latest thinking concerning stereoscopic vision.

The author has concentrated on the murder - 30 pages on the trial alone, and many more on Larkyns and Flora - and this dramatic and well documented episode, carefully interpreted, certainly does help to flesh out Muybridge the man.

I like Clegg's writing style. He is, I think, the first to comment in print on the enigmatic differences between the known photographs of Muybridge's wife. He describes one photograph of a pregnant Flora as 'uncomfortingly reminiscent of the cut-out animations Terry Gilliam provided for Monty Python's Flying Circus. It's tempting to expect her top half to open up, as if hinged, and the baby to pop out'.

The technical details of the sequence photography, at both Palo Alto and Pennsylvania - the kind of sections that general readers often skip - are described in a painless, readable fashion. The description of the shutter release development is carefully written, though the author seems unaware that 'oblique' cameras providing side views were used at Palo Alto as well as at the later Pennsylvania setup.

The preface mentions a 'determined attempt to remove Muybridge from his place in history'. This refers to film historian Terry Ramsaye's account of Muybridge and his work, in A Million and One Nights; accurately described in Clegg's final chapter, 'Time Lord or Patent Fraud?', as 'a conscious, vituperative assault', and it's satisfying to see Ramsaye's account properly dismissed.

Muybridge wasn't quite, as the author contends, 'the first to bring motion to the big screen' - moving image projectors had previously been used publicly by Uchatius and by Döbler, and manufactured by Dubosq, and simple Wheel of Life versions could be purchased for use with any magic lantern; but Muybridge's screen images were different, featuring the essence of life distilled from his photographic motion sequences, and that's what made them special.

A few points should perhaps have been picked up by a sub-editor, and there are other mistakes, mostly copied through from previous accounts. Oddly, Clegg twice reproduces without comment an entry from the Sheriff's office record book that gives the date of Muybridge's arrest as September 19th, when the shooting took place on October 17th. Muybridge's use of the 'Eadweard' form of his first name is given as 'from around 1850'. In fact, Rebecca Solnit has shown that he didn't, apparently, use the archaic spelling until very much later - around 1880.

As I've stated elsewhere, Muybridge is a big and difficult subject, and only the brave attempt to cover the whole field. The main purpose of this website is to record the correct facts relating to Muybridge, so this review has concentrated on the slips and points of contention rather than paraphrasing the solid account of Muybridge and his work that Brian Clegg has produced. The biography is engaging and well written, and a very welcome addition to the Muybridge literature. As a book intended for a popular readership it lacks annotation, but many of the sources are mentioned in the text. I would certainly recommend The Man Who Stopped Time as a very useful introduction to Eadweard Muybridge, 'a Victorian marvel'.


10 May 2007

The Man Who Stopped Time
Coming soon - a review of popular science writer Brian Clegg's biography of Muybridge - which has now been published.


8 May 2007


Poster, 50 Years of Kinematography exhibition, Prague, 1945-46.
© Kingston Museum

A Muybridge poster image, from 60 years ago
Muybridge sequence photographs have graced many posters. Here's a rare one from a little-known exhibition held at the Umeleckoprumyslove Museum (Museum of Decorative Arts), Prague, December 1945-January 1946. Despite the '50 Years' of the exhibition title, this particular poster features images from the 1880s. There was at least one other poster for the same exhibition, featuring the Lumière Cinématographe camera/projector.


3 May 2007


San Francisco Morning Call, 18 July 1871

Just when, exactly, Muybridge married Flora has been one of those facts that seemed somewhat elusive. 1870 or 1871, perhaps 1872; the biographies differ. Rebecca Solnit fixes a date - from a report of Muybridge's later murder trial: 20 May 1871. Brian Clegg's new biography (of which more soon), states 'no record of the marriage has ever been found'. Well, here it is: a newspaper entry from 1871. The other seven marriage announcements that day all relate to July marriages - I wonder why this one announcement was delayed?


30 April 2007


Paper Zoopraxiscopical 'fan' souvenir (detail). Library of Congress

Zoopraxiscopical 'fans'
In 1892/3 Muybridge commissioned Erwin F. Faber to produce drawings for a new set of Zoopraxiscope glass projection discs, which were to be hand coloured after production. Faber also drew a set of fifty-one drawings for paper souvenir 'Zoopraxiscopical fans', as souvenirs of the 1893 Chicago Exposition, which could be made into simple phenakistiscope toys. A selection of 12 was also available in a colour lithographic version. These items are today very rare. A full set of the black & white fans (in signed cover) is in the Kingston Museum collection (selection HERE ), and four of the colour fans are in the Library of Congress, 3 shown HERE.


28 April 2007

Year Life and Work Photography Chronophotography
& Motion Pictures
Science & Technology World Events

New comparative timeline added to website
New features are gradually being added to the website, starting with this comparative timeline. The rival claims of inventors and inventions are always contentious, and only so much can be included in a chart such as this, but I hope that it is broadly accurate.


26 April 2007


Cockatoo, lantern slide, photographed 1885. © Kingston Museum (Cat. No. EM8168)

Sunday 23 August 1885 (Syndicated)
Syracuse Standard
Photographing Birds
from the Philadelphia Times.
The big white cockatoo at the Zoological Garden was in bad humor yesterday afternoon and absolutely refused to fly within the focus of Mr. Muybridge's batteries of photographic cameras. She screamed angrily, ruffled her yellow plume and when thrown into the air by an attendant invariably flew to a spectator who stood in the background for protection. Several pigeons were successfully photographed Tuesday afternoon and this morning[,] and next week Mr. Muybridge will endeavor to make plates of the lions and tigers.
"It is a very difficult matter to make satisfactory pictures of the wing movements of birds," he said. "I have twelve cameras set for the bird in each battery as he flies past, and they operate one after another in the twenty-fifth part of a second each. An animal of course, moves more slowly and is not so erratic. They can be photographed more easily than birds. I may catch the exact moment that I wish to photograph the first trial and I may make a dozen attempts and fail."


19 April 2007


Deerhunt, Zoopraxiscope disc, 1881 © Kingston Museum (Cat. No. EM0024)

The first edited motion picture?
It now seems confirmed that there was a screening of some newly-produced Zoopraxiscope glass plates in San Francisco in the Spring of 1881, one of which features sequential actions: perhaps the first multi-shot motion picture informed by the camera - meticulously painted images based closely on photographic sequences to create a succession of different 'shots'; and for dramatic effect. A May 1881 report in the San Francisco Post (reprinted in the New York Times May 16) described this as: 'a deerhunt, where a deer, followed successfully [successively?] by dogs and horsemen, traverses over the illuminated screen'... The report says these new subjects 'can now be illustrated'. It seems reasonable to suppose they were all shown at this time, though it is just possible that the report is taken from a written submission by Muybridge. But even if it was, it is quite likely that he started using them in his presentations. Most of the subjects described in the report survive in the Kingston Museum Collection, including the little-known 'three-shot' motion picture Deerhunt; an edited motion picture almost two decades before the technique was used in films.


18 April 2007


George and Princess

The following item originally appeared in the Philadelphia Press in August 1885, and was syndicated, being reprinted in several newspapers around the 30th of the month.

PHOTOGRAPHING A LION. The King of Beasts Makes a Very Poor Subject. Philadelphia Press.

Photographer Muybridge was very anxious to obtain an instantaneous photograph of a lion in motion, but there were many difficulties in the way. The picture could not be taken in the house, because there was not sufficient light. Then it was necessary to get the lion George to cavort about before a broad white screen. George did not seem at all inclined to cavort, although there was a wicked leer in the eye that was kept suspiciously open, and the operation of adjusting a screen behind him was regarded by the professor and his assistants as being attended with something of danger. Finally it was decided to let George and his companion, Princess, out into the little iron-barred yard in the year [rear] of their quarters. The gate was accordingly unlocked, and the keeper, by the liberal and vigorous use of a long pole, succeeded in persuading the couple to go into the open air. Then the gate was locked again, and a step ladder brough into service, and a broad, white sheet let carefully and cautiously down so as to cover the wall surrounding the entrance to the cage. While this was going on the attention of George and the Princess was kept engaged by the preparations in progress on the asphalt walk outside the yard.
During the performance of this work George sat in the centre of the yard watching attentively every movement. The Princess, with true feminine and feline curiosity, was standing switching her tail, with her nose between the bars, an equally interested observer. Mr. Muybridge put his head under the back curtain that covered the back of the instrument and announced in muffled and cautious tones that he thought everything was all right. About this time George began to grow uneasy at the steady stare of the twenty four bleary eyes. He rose and walked to the bars beside the Princess, with a low growl. Both were evidently growing suspicious of the hitherto unknown proceedings. As they turned toward the house they stopped short in amazement at the white sheet that was covering the door of their den. George immediately instituted an investigation to discover if the door was still there, and, in the course of it, he and the Princess tore down the screen, to the unmitigated disgust of Mr. Muybridge. Having satisfied themselves that the door was all right and in good condition, the pair took no more interest in the proceedings, and lay peacefully down to a nap. Mr. Muybridge and his assistants held a consultation. It was decided to try another sheet, and accordingly another was let down along the side of the building. The snoring beasts did not see it. Once more the instrument was adjusted. Then the keeper went to work with his pole. George was poked in the ribs until he howled, and he and the Princess tore about the yard lashing their tails in a high state of indignation. Mr. Muybridge pressed the electric spring, there as a click and a whir, and a picture was taken.
The keeper kept up his good work with the pole, and gave both George and Princess no time to pay any attention to the sheet. In a short time two more pictures were secured, the screen was removed, and the beasts allowed to go back to snoozing in their den. Professor Muybridge is not entirely satisfied with the result of the experiment, and thinks it may be necessary to repeat it.


15 April 2007


Tablet of Mena

The Tablet of Mena
Late in his retirement (May 1902), Muybridge wrote to The Times (London) about the depiction of animal motion in figures of a bull, and a deer, on an excavated ivory 'tablet of Mena' (Egypt, 4,700 BC) illustrated in the new edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He wrote: 'This distinctive method of galloping was unknown, and, indeed, unsuspected by us moderns, until revealed by photographic investigation of animal locomotion; but it was apparently well known to the early artists of Egypt.' The photographic investigation was of course his own, and this was noted in the short piece that appeared in the New York Times some days later, entitled 'Animals in motion; New Evidence as to the Correctness of Muybridge's Theory.' It would be interesting to know whether Muybridge had a theory as to why, if man in ancient times was aware of the true nature of fast-moving animal motion, and depicted it correctly in his art, such knowledge was later lost - only to be re-discovered with the application of photography. The illustration here is actually from History of Egypt - From 330 B.C. to the Present Time (The Grolier Society, London) by S. Rappoport - a rather mysterious set of volumes, which the British Library apparently doesn't own. It's on the web but not easy to find by URL - (Project Gutenberg - search Google Images for 'tablet Mena' without the quotes.)


14 April 2007


The church of San Francisco, Antigua. Destroyed by earthquake, 1774

Digital searching: newspapers and journals
Word searching old newspapers and periodicals for 'Muybridge' (and Maybridge / Muygridge) is turning up some interesting items - lectures not recorded in the Muybridge biographies, an interest in insect flight and 'aerial locomotion' (March 5 1892), an interview with Stanford concerning the court case over Stillman's book The Horse in Motion (January 30 1893), and much else. Here's a drawing from an article that appeared in Scribner's Monthly in 1878, 'A Trip to Central America'. The author thanks Muybridge 'for offering the use of his justly celebrated photographs to assist in illustrating this article.'
The Making of America collection at Cornell University Library


12 April 2007

Arthur B. Frost

This rather wonderful cartoon comes from an equally wonderful article on the web, by Thierry Smolderen, describing and illustrating the work of cartoonist / painter A.B. Frost. This cartoon was reproduced in a collection of his published work, Stuff and Nonsense, by A.B. Frost and C. Frost (New York, Charles Scribner's Sons 1884). I don't yet know where it originally appeared, or when - but the book was reprinted in 2003 by Fantagraphics. For more on Frost go to: coconino-world and click on 'La connection Muybridge/Eakins'.

There's a text-only version in English HERE. (Scroll down to 'THE PHOTOGRAPHIC DIMENSION (2) : THE MUYBRIDGE/EAKINS CONNECTION'). Essential reading for anyone interested in how sequence photography influenced the development of the cartoon strip.

[NOTE (added 29 December 2008). Frost, Arthur Burdett (1851-1928) attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and studied under Thomas Eakins (who would later work with Muybridge) from 1879 to 1881. Frost and Eakins were both members of the Philadelphia Sketch Club.]


11 April 2007

Stanford University exhibition

Stanford, California. The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University announces the exhibition Yosemite's Structure and Textures: Photographs by Eadweard Muybridge, Carleton Watkins, Ansel Adams, and Others on view from July 25 through October 28, 2007. Fifty photographs plus maps, guidebooks, and stereo prints present the geological wonders of Yosemite Valley and its surrounding High Sierra peaks.

http://museum.stanford.edu/news_room/Yosemite.html


Still open at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Eadweard Muybridge: The Central American Journey
Now through April 29, 2007

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), a preeminent landscape photographer who is best known for his stop-action photographs of humans and animals in motion, traveled to South America in 1875 for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. While in Panama and Guatemala, he photographed contemporary life as well as scenic ruins and the extensive plantations for the emerging coffee industry. The exhibition will feature more than 60 photographs from Muybridge's Central American trips. Many of these photographs from the museum's permanent collection will be presented for this first time.

Credit
"Eadweard Muybridge: The Central American Journey" is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


10 April 2007

A contemporary view of Muybridge's pictorial photography...

Bits of Travel at Home (1878) by Helen Hunt Jackson

I said there were but three things to do in San Francisco. There are four. And the fourth is to go and see Mr. Muybridge's photographs. The scenery of California is known to Eastern people chiefly through the big but inartistic pictures of Watkins. When it is known through the pictures which Mr. Muybridge is now engaged in taking, it will be seen in its true beauty and true proportions Every thing depends on stand-point; very few photographs of landscapes really render them. Of two photographs, both taking in precisely the same objects and both photographing them with accuracy, one may be good and the other worthless, to all intents and purposes. No man can so take a photograph of a landscape as to render and convey the whole truth of it, unless he is an artist by nature, and would know how to choose the point from which that landscape ought to be painted. Mr. Muybridge is an artist by nature. His photographs have composition. There are some of them of which it is difficult to believe that they are not taken from paintings, - such unity, such effect, such vitality do they possess, in comparison with the average photograph, which has been made, hap-hazard, to cover so many square feet and take in all that happened to be there. Mr. Muybridge's pictures have another peculiarity, which of itself would mark them superior to others. The skies are always most exquisitely rendered. His cloud photographs alone fill a volume; and many of them remind one vividly of Turner's studies of skies. The contrast between a photographed landscape, with a true sky added, and one with the usual ghastly, lifeless, pallid, stippled sky is something which it is impossible to overstate.

Mr. Muybridge has a series of eight pictures illustrative of the California vintage, all of which are exquisitely beautiful, and any one of which, painted in true color simply from the photograph as it stands, would seem to be a picture from a master's hand. One of the first pictures in the series, representing the first breaking of the soil for the vineyard, is as perfect a Millet as could be imagined. The soft tender distance, outlined by low mountain ranges; a winding road, losing itself in a wood; a bare and stricken tree on the right of the foreground; and in the centre a solitary man, ploughing the ground. Next comes the same scene, with the young vines just starting. The owner is sitting on a bank in the foreground, looking off dreamily over his vineyard. Then there are two pictures representing the cutting of the grapes and the piling of them into the baskets and the wagons. The grouping of the vintagers in these is exquisite. Then there is a picture of the storehouses and the ranges of casks; all so judiciously selected and placed that it might be a photograph from some old painting of still life in Meran. The last picture of all is of the corking the bottles. Only a group of workmen, under an open shed, corking wine-bottles; but every accessory is so artistically thrown in that the whole scene reminds one of Teniers. I am not sure, after all, that there is any thing so good to do in San Francisco as to spend a forenoon in Mr. Muybridge's little upper chamber, looking over these marvellous pictures.

Transcribed by Dan Anderson
Webpage for this transcription: here.

Lots more of Muybridge interest at www.yosemite.ca.us


9 April 2007

A face in the clouds

This cabinet card from my collection is unusual in combining a photograph of clouds with a portrait. At least I assume that it's unusual; I'm no expert on cabinet cards or 19th century photographic portraiture. Muybridge superimposed cloud images on many of his landscape subjects, and even produced stereoviews of cloud formations - and this card was produced by Bradley & Rulofson, Muybridge's San Francisco publishers at the time he was photographing clouds. So, perhaps it was a Muybridge cloud negative that was used. The lady's name is in pencil on the reverse: May Keane. At least two of Muybridge patents have a 'T.J. Keane' as a witness, so maybe there is a connection. Information, comments, welcomed.


Muy blog email: Stephen Herbert

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