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Eadweard Muybridge

British/American Photographer and Motion Picture Pioneer

Eadweard Muybridge Photo

Born: April 9th, 1830 - Kingston-upon-Thames, UK

Died: May 8th, 1904 - Kingston-upon-Thames, UK

Summary of Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge pioneered photographic techniques that allowed new forms of documentation of modern life. Muybridge combined refined aesthetic sensibilities, technological innovation, showmanship, and commercial wiles to position himself as the preeminent photographer of San Francisco's capitalist elite. His photographs of the Californian landscapes experiment with perspective and painterly effects, while his work for various government bureaux offers early examples of the ways in which photography could serve a propaganda role. Muybridge's most pioneering work was in the study of motion, capturing horses, humans and other animals carrying out a range of actions; his reduced exposure times allowed for sequences to be frozen into sets of images, resulting in a greater understanding of anatomy. Toward the end of his life, Muybridge began to experiment with setting these sequences in motion, which paved the way for subsequent development of the motion picture.

Key Ideas

Eadweard Muybridge played a significant role in the development of instantaneous photography, working with both chemicals and shutters to produce shorter exposure times. These meant that he was able to isolate particular moments, famously capturing the stages of motion, showing the audiences the positions through which animal and human bodies shifted while performing actions, which lead to advances in areas as diverse as zoology, painting, and motion pictures.
Muybridge's work created a bridge between Europe and the United States. While Paris and London were centres for photographic innovation, new forms of capitalism were emerging as the United States expanded westward. Muybridge drew upon contemporary European technological and artistic trends in order to document the changes taking place in late-19th-century California, constructing a modern identity for the West Coast of America.
Muybridge's attention to presentation had an impact long after his death, paving the way for post-war Conceptual artists to experiment with photography's apparent veracity. Muybridge used precise measurements, grid arrangements, and sequencing to construct an image of objectivity that continues to be persuasive. His photographs presented the motions of life in ways that transformed the everyday into the spectacular.
Eadweard Muybridge Photo

Eadweard Muybridge, then Edward James Muggeridge, was born in Kingston-upon-Thames, a market town southwest of London, in 1830. England changed rapidly during his youth, as the Industrial Revolution widened the gap between the wealthy and those living in poverty as new technologies were developed and traditional agriculture waned. Muybridge's father worked as a coal and grain merchant and this position, coupled with the position of Kingston-upon-Thames as a trade centre, meant the family were secure despite the changes. Muybridge and his two younger brothers were exposed to the delights of the modern age without the dangers. Muybridge was reportedly adventurous as a child, with a desire to explore the world from an early age. Muybridge's father died in 1843 and his mother took over running the family business, which operated successfully into the 1850s.

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