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May 11th
2008

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Eadweard Muybridge
April 9, 1830 - May 8, 1904
Kingston upon Thames - U.K.

MuybridgeMuybridge was born Edward James Muggeridge. He is believed to have changed his first name to match that of King Eadweard as shown on the plinth of the Kingston coronation stone. Although he didn't change his first name until the 1870s, he changed his surname to Muygridge early in his San Francisco career and then changed it again to Muybridge at the launch of his photographic career or during the missing years between.

Eadweard Muybridge arrived in San Francisco in 1855, starting his career as a publisher's agent and bookseller. He left San Francisco at the end of that decade, and after a stagecoach accident in which he received severe head injuries returned to England for a few years. He reappeared in San Francisco in 1866 as a photographer and rapidly became successful in the profession, focusing almost entirely on landscape and architectural subjects.

Apparently a hot-tempered man, Muybridge shot and killed his much younger wife's lover but was acquitted after a sensational trial, in part perhaps because he was friends with Leland Stanford, railroad magnate and governor of California. They became acquainted in 1872, when Stanford made a bet regarding a horse's gallop, contending that when a horse gallops, at some point all four of its feet are off the ground simultaneously. Stanford hired Muybridge to prove it photographically; Muybridge, using a system of trip-shutter, high-speed photography and twenty-four cameras, did just that.

pole vaulterOne of Muybridge's busiest years came in 1884 as he produced more than 100,000 plates of humans and animals in a countless variety of motions. His work was conducted now at the University of Pennsylvania with a number of different set-ups; three batteries totaling twelve cameras; forty cameras equipped with a Dallmeyer lens and electro-magnetic shutter. By now, Muybridge was using the newer gelatino-bromide plates. By the end of 1885, Muybridge had spent over $30,000 in research. The work was published as Animal Locomotion; An Electro-Photographic Investigation Of Consecutive Phases Of Animal Movement. It had a chrono-text by a physiologist of the University.

Muybridge's photo-plates ranged in size from 12 x 9 inches to 6 x 18 inches. The eleven folio volumes contained over 20,000 images of men and women (some nudes), children and animals and sold for $600. A considerable amount at the time which therefore constricted its market to libraries, universities and scientists for the most part. Muybridge reduced the cost and content of the original work in 1898 to $100 with only the most important plates and photographs included. Two volumes, Animals In Motion and The Human Figure In Motion were sold.

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