Eadweard Muybridge

About Muybridge

Eadweard Mubridge was born in Kingston upon Thames in 1830 the son of a merchant trader at 30 High Street.  He moved away from Kingston in about 1852 to make a fortune for himself in America. He started his American career as a bookbinder's agent in New York, but shortly after this moved to San Francisco where he was to make his fame and  fortune.

It was in San Francisco where his interest in photography really took off. At first he was a landscape photographer and sold his views of the Yosemite Valley and San Francisco Bay to the middle classes of the town. This began to net him a fortune in pre- orders and his fame as a landscape photographer began to spread.

His fame brought him to the attention of a former governor Leland Stanford and he was commissioned to solve an age old argument through photography - does a trotting horse have all four feet off the ground at any one stage in its stride?

After some time, during which he was put on trial and acquitted of the murder of his wife's lover, he was, through a series of experiments with shutters and chemicals, able to prove that it did. This was the beginning of a relationship between Stanford and Muybridge that was to change the history of the moving image.

At Stanford's stud farm at Palo Alto in 1877 to 1879, a camera shed was set up with 12 (later 24) cameras each with shutters attached to threads.  When a horse broke a thread as it passed in front of the camera, the shutter dropped and an instant exposure was taken. Further experiments followed. The results were published and the world was amazed.

Later, at University of Pennsylvania 1884 to 1887, an exhaustive series of photographs was taken in a huge work of 781 plates called Animal Locomotion. This is the work that most of us are familiar with: running men and horses, animals and birds.

Whilst Muybridge experimented in synthesising motion from photography with his machine, the zoopraxiscope, he really wanted to be remembered for his analytical motion photography. He came back to live in Kingston in the 1890s and bequeathed his equipment and prints to Kingston Museum. He died in 1904.

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