May 12, 2014

Photographer, Murderer, & Forefather of Cinema: Film Pioneer Eadweard Muybridge in Focus

When you walk through the halls of cinematic history, what faces do you see? Most likely to show up are some big names from the first 50 years of filmmaking, like Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, and Charlie Chaplin, or even figureheads of production, like the Warner Brothers, or the inventor of the early camera, Thomas Edison. However, there is one man who often isn't recognized, or at least well known, for his contributions to cinema, who more or less brought about the birth of the moving picture through his horse gait experiment -- Eadweard Muybridge. In this excellent BBC documentary, learn all about the life and work of this eccentric, name changing, , English photographer who once killed his cheating wife's lover -- and got acquitted.

Born Edward James Muggeridge, Muybridge emigrated from Kingston to the U.S. in 1855, a time when the country was in the process of being built from the ground up. The Old West was a prime place for an adventurous young man who set out to make a name for himself. And indeed he did.

Muybridge was a successful bookseller before being seriously injured in a runaway stagecoach accident, after which he returned to England. However, 6 years later he returned to the U.S. with aspirations of being a photographer. Former California governor, businessman, and race-horse owner Leland Stanford (yes, founder of Stanford University) approached Muybridge in 1872 in hopes that he could answer the question that set the entire world of photography into motion: Do all 4 feet of a horse leave off the ground at the same time while trotting or galloping?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5taGClULpqA

For these experiments, Muybridge set up a series of cameras (some sources say 12, 24, even over 50) along a straight stretch of track and rigged them with trip wires, which would be triggered by the horses' legs. Muybridge was able to capture images of the horses running, making his experiments a success. The series of 24 photographs taken of a galloping horse for his experiments is called "Sallie Gardner at a Gallop" and is considered by some to be one, if not the earliest silent film.

As you'll learn in the documentary below, Muybridge's photographic experiments about horse gaits led him and others to discover that not only do all 4 legs of a horse leave the ground while galloping, but still images captured in quick succession and give the illusion of movement when exhibited in a similar fashion. In fact, Thomas Edison cited Muybridge's experiments as one of his greatest inspirations for the invention of the movie camera.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Awo-P3t4Ho

What do you think about Muybridge and his experiments? Do you know of any other figures in cinema that aren't often talked about, but made huge contributions to the craft? Let us know in the comments!

[via Cinephilia and Beyond]

Your Comment

17 Comments

To this date, animators still use his work as a valuable source of movement mechanics.

May 12, 2014 at 9:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

6
Reply
Marcus

"In 1874 he shot and killed Major Harry Larkyns, his wife's lover, but was acquitted in a jury trial on the grounds of justifiable homicide.[3] He travelled for more than a year in Central America on a photographic expedition in 1875."
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadweard_Muybridge

totally agree if it is in the title you have to cover it.

May 12, 2014 at 11:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Mike

Typo!

"Former California governor, businessman, and race-horse owner Leland Stanford (yes, founder of Stanford University) approached Muybridge in 1972..."

I really don't think that year reference is correct...otherwise a nice historical piece.

May 12, 2014 at 11:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

4
Reply
William Koehler

He didn't invent cinema, he invented GIF's

May 12, 2014 at 11:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
El Oso

I think it's funny how people marginalize something because it has become commonplace.

"He didn’t invent cinema, he invented GIF’s".

Are you kidding me? He created a technique that didn't exist before he thought of it. Just because your mind is so small you can't grasp the concept of a moving image not existing doesn't mean it's of no consequence.

Let me ask you, what new concept have you brought the world? What novel ideas do you bring us that no person has ever seen before? What famous artists and inventors have you inspired with your work? Furthermore, in 200 years are people going to be talking about your work, examining it, making documentaries about you? I can say with utmost certainty the answer will be a resounding "NO".

May 17, 2014 at 12:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

5
Reply
Denny Mac

Sorry for the typo, guys.

Also, El Oso, I have a question for you…what is cinema?

http://nofilmschool.com/2013/10/worlds-first-gif-making-machines/

May 12, 2014 at 11:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
avatar
V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

Fascinating. Now I know the answer to the question, "If you could go back in time and have lunch with any historical figure, who would it be and why?" I would say Muybridge, because I want to implant the idea of filming close up (the face); it would jump start almost twenty years of progress, skipping all the way to Porter and Griffith's works.

May 13, 2014 at 12:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

6
Reply
Alex

I actually made a music video hommage for Muybridge Horse

http://vimeo.com/75977514

check it out !

May 13, 2014 at 3:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

5
Reply

Like it Lucie.

May 13, 2014 at 9:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply

Is my comment deleted? Are you guys not comfortable with criticism on here? Because I welcome it personally since I'm not scared of it.

May 13, 2014 at 6:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

6
Reply
Angelo

just to let you know...Edison did invent a camera yes...but let's not forget that the first film, and the first real movie camera were made by the Lumière Brothers in France :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auguste_and_Louis_Lumière

May 14, 2014 at 4:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply

It's all conjecture as to who really built the 1st motion camera as William Dickson (who worked for Edison, Lumiere brothers and other pioneers like Louis le Prince were all building cameras in the same era with new developments just months apart. The real challenge was to successfully project an image...

May 14, 2014 at 2:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Dan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auguste_and_Louis_Lumière don't forget they actually made the first movie camera, and the first movie.

May 14, 2014 at 5:11AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

etienne jules marey helped him with his works don't forget about him neither!!

May 14, 2014 at 2:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

4
Reply
marie

Edison did not invent a lot of things he is credited with. What Edison frequently did was take someone else's work and greatly improve on it. When you improve a product, you can patent it. He wasn't the first to invent a light bulb either, but his was the first PRACTICAL light bulb that didn't burn out shortly after the filament started incandescing. You've probably heard pizza was invented in Italy. That's probably true (I don't really know) but it was PERFECTED in America! Edison "perfected" a lot of stuff, too! ;-)

May 16, 2014 at 6:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply

Locus boy is so correct. In the US Edison gets all the credit ,in Europe it is the Lumiere Bros,but lets not forget Louis le Prince who filmed moving pictures on his own invented motion picture camera in 1888.Nor should we forget Leon Scott's invention which is the first documented sound recording machine,1857, and was the inspiration for Edisons later achievements.

May 16, 2014 at 10:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

6
Reply

You can go further back to 1832 when Jozef Plateau invented the phenakistoscope...

May 17, 2014 at 11:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Filip Wieme