Past Projections: Muybridge

English-born photographer Eadweard Muybridge is widely recognised as the Grandaddy of motion picture projection, we took a quick peek.

English-born photographer Eadweard Muybridge is widely recognised as the Grandaddy of motion picture projection.
He started his career in publishing, moving to California in 1855. But he then rose to fame as a landscape and architectural photographer, taking popular images of Yosemite national park and then documenting other parts of North and Central america.

The somewhat eccentric Muybridge (he sometimes signed his prints ‘Helios’) then began to experiment more with motion sequences and capturing the movement of humans and animals, doing extensive work at the University of Pennsylvania. His scientific approach to his art also led him to be hired by Leland Stanford, race-horse owner and former governor of California. Leland funded Muybridge to settle a popular question of the era: did a horse’s feet all leave the ground simultaneously when moving? Proving that a horse was indeed airborne even at a trot, Muybridge continued his motion photography experiments.

In 1878 Muybridge set up multiple glass-plate cameras in a row along a race track at Stanford’s Palo Alto farm. Using a thread to trigger each shutter in sequence, Muybridge created ‘Horse in Motion’ – a sequence of pictures not only proving theories about horses’ legs, but radically changing the way people thought about photography. The negatives were copied onto a rotating disc and spun on Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope. This machine is still regarded as the first movie projector.

Shooting (with a gun not a camera) his wife’s lover aside (which he was acquitted of) Muybridge’s experiments and photographic sequences saw him take over 100,000 images during the 1880s whilst working at the University Pennsylvania. Muybridge captured many subjects from Bison (borrowed from the local zoo) to Ballerinas. Pioneering the seemingly simple idea of sequential frames and inventing the celluloid film strip, the revolutionary work of Eddy Muybridge has left a legacy that will keep moving forever.