Remembering Eadweard Muybridge, the Photographer Who Pioneered the Concept of Photographs in Motion

Remembering Eadweard Muybridge, the Photographer Who Pioneered the Concept of Photographs in Motion

Eadweard Muybridge, is a professional photographer who initially gained fame in San Francisco, CA in 1868, for his exhibit of large photographs of Yosemite Valley. He is also better known for pioneering the process of putting photographs into motion.

As a backgrounder, Muybridge started experimenting on the concept when American tycoon and founder of Stanford University, Leland Stanford needed a photographer to prove a theory. Stanford who was also the Governor of California at that time, got into an argument in which he contended that during a horse’s natural trotting gait, there is a particular moment in time that all four legs of the horse’s legs, simultaneously do not touch the ground. The already famous Eadweard Muybridge, was at that time working as a photographer, doing survey work for the state government.

How Muybridge Supported Stanford’s Theory with Photos in Motion

Muybridge’s initial attempts though, were not successful as cameras at the time did not have a fast shutter. However, personal problems hindered the photographer from devoting his full attention to the project, as he had troubles brewing at home. Some time later, Muybridge once again drew public attention; but this time, for fatally shooting his wife’s lover. As a result, his work for Governor Stanford was temporarily delayed as he was being tried in court. Still, the jury subsequently acquitted Muybridge, stating that the killing was a justifiable homicide.

In 1872, Muybridge resumed his experiments by photographing a white horse named Occident, running against a black-painted background at Sacramento’s Union Ark Race Track. During that period, stereo cameras outfitted with lenses set at a distance that approximates the distance between a pair of human eyes, had already been introduced for a new style of photography. Using this type of photography equipment, Muybridge was able to simultaneously capture 2 images of the same subject.

Using funds provided by Governor, Muybridge advanced the style by using 12 up to 24 Scovill cameras outfitted with Dallmeyer of London stereoscopic lenses. As additional improvement, his photographic instrumentation incorporated shutter mechanisms using trip threads attached to an electromagnet, which in turn was attached to a lever connected to a twin-bladed shutter.

As soon as the white horse started galloping at the track, the trip threads broke, which drew the lever inward and thereafter released the shutters that were pulled down by rubber rings. The improvised shutter mechanism gave the images an exposure of 2/1000 per second. The images were then recorded on stereo wet glass plates.

The series of photographs showed a white horse running against a black backdrop, with each picture presenting gaits in slightly varying positions. When closely examined, the series of photographs gave proof that Governor Leland Stanford’s observation was correct.

However, many refused to accept Muybridge’s presentations as credible proof. Critics contend that it was highly improbable for a horse to assume such position without the animal losing its balance. In order to prove that his photography experimentation yielded accurate results, Muybridge designed a device which he called a zoöpraxiscope.

The Zoöpraxiscope

In 1879, Eadweard Muybridge conceptualized a device that can project the series of images he took of Occident, as if moving in continuous motion. He had the device built using 16″ glass disks, on which a sequence of Occident’s images in different positions were hand painted in silhouette by an artist. The set of galloping silhouettes was held by a single disk, which when rotated projects images seemingly in motiion

 

Eadweard Muybridge continued in life as a lecturer using the zoöpraxiscope in demonstrating how photographs can be put into motion. During his lifetime, he witnessed how his concept became the pioneering idea in the development of motion picture, which we all appreciate today as movie entertainment.

NOTE• This guest blog was posted for wedding photographer Catherine Ross of https://catherinejgrossphotography.com, as her way of expressing appreciation for all the people who made photography and motion picture possible.