VIPS in the Port of San Francisco
Eadweard James Muggeridge (Muybridge)
Eadweard (Edward) James Muggeridge was born at Kingston-on-the-Thames, England, in 1830. (Early in life he adopted the Saxon spelling of his name.)
Muybridge attended school in Kingston, and worked in his family's stationery and papermaking business in London. He came to the U.S. in 1852 as their representative and settled for awhile in San Francisco where he learned photography from daguerreotypist Silas Selleck in the early 1860s, and worked for Carleton E. Watkins, the major West Coast scenic photographer, before striking out on his own.
He made photographic surveys for the firm of Thomas Houseworth and worked for the U.S. War Department documenting areas of the West Coast. Muybridge first gained recognition in 1867 for a prize-winning series of dramatic Yosemite views. The following year, he was the official photographer with the American military presence in recently-purchased Alaska. He took over 2000 photographs of the American Far West between 1868 and 1873.
In 1872 Muybridge was enlisted by Leland Stanford to settle a wager regarding the position of a trotting horse's legs. Using the fastest shutter available, Muybridge was able to provide only the faintest image. He was more successful five years later when, employing a battery of cameras with mechanically tripped shutters, he showed clearly the stages of the horse's movement: at top speed, a trotting horse had all four hooves off the ground simultaneously, and in a different configuration from that of a galloping horse. (This experiment is credited with being the precursor to motion pictures.)
Between these two studies, Muybridge traveled to the Isthmus of Panama. At that time Panama was part of Colombia, and Colombian President Juan Berrios was attempting to rejuvenate the coffee plantations by granting investment incentives to new and established growers.
Muybridge braved the tropical climate and rainforest of much of Central America, photographing points of interest on the route of the Panama Railroad and the Pacific Mail Steamship Company's line. His efforts were financed by the Pacific Mail line, which hoped that publication of the photographs in North America would attract new investors to the region.
He had left the U.S. after killing his wife's lover and, although he was acquitted, he didn't return until 1877.
Muybridge concentrated his efforts on studies of the motion of animals and human models.
His work in stop-action series photography soon led to his invention of the "zoopraxiscope," a primitive motion-picture machine which recreated movement by displaying individual photographs in rapid succession. Thomas Eakins, who painted motion subjects, helped arrange for Muybridge to work at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Muybridge's major accomplishments date from his three year stay there, during which he was able to improve his techniques.
Note: On May 20, 2004, Charl Lucassen from the Netherlands, sent the following information from Chronological Projections which quotes Talcott Williams, Animal Locomotion in the Muybridge Photographs, The Century; a popular quarterly, Volume 34, Issue 3, July 1887, pp. 356-368.
When the work, begun four years ago, was completed, $30,000 had been expended, and 100,000 plates exposed; and the final results, as reproduced by a photo-gelatine process, extend, in the completed work, through 781 folio sheets, presenting over 20,000 positions assumed by men, women, and children, draped and nude, and by birds and animals in motion.
Earlier photographs are published as The Horse in Motion series (1877-1879) and in The Attitudes of Animals in Motion (1881) In 1887 his most important work, Animal Locomotion, was published in 11 volumes. It contained 19,157 photographs taken between 1884 and 1886.
He returned to England in 1894 and did little photography in his last years. His book The Human Figure in Motion was published in 1901.
He died three years later at his native Kingston-on-the-Thames.
English photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) was a pioneer in visual studies of human and animal locomotion. In 1872, he famously helped settle a bet for former California governor Leland Stanford by providing photographic proof that when galloping, a horse momentarily lifts all of its legs off of the ground.