Rick Doble – computer artist

Following on from my recent item about early Muybridge web pages, for this posting we have details of photographer and computer artist Rick Doble, who posted his Muybridge-related artworks on the web from 1997. From 1992 Doble had exhibited computer colourized and manipulated images based on Animal Locomotion in various galleries (having worked on creating the necessary programs since 1988).

From the digital exhibit at the North Gallery at the Greenville Museum of Art, Greenville, NC (1995)
An exhibiting photographer for 25 years, Rick Doble decided to rework the classic photographs of Eadweard Muybridge from the “Human and Animal Locomotion” series (1887). Doble wanted to create images that were at the same time photographic, painterly and computerized; formal and unposed; 100 years old and modern.
The “Woman in Motion” exhibit is both a departure and a consolidation of Doble’s skills. It combines his experience with historic photographs as Director of the Durham Historic Photographic Archives Project along with years of computer programing and a lifelong interest in painting.
Writing half of the software himself for this show, Doble wanted to become intimately involved in all aspects of creating computer imagery rather than simply using commercial software.
Pictures from the “Woman in Motion” series have been reproduced in color in Sanskrit, a magazine published by UNC- Charlotte, and were considered in the final selection for the Competition for North American  Artists by the Museum of Modern Art of Miami.
A  North Carolina citizen for over 30 years, Rick Doble received a Masters Degree in Communications from the Dept. of  Radio, TV, and Motion Pictures at UNC-Chapel  Hill in 1975.

His early web pages (c.1997) include the information:

I  do not usually comment on people’s reactions to my work, but with the  “Woman in Motion” series I have been surprised by the range and intensity of viewers’ reactions.

A nationally known potter told me she dreamt about my pictures the night after she saw them, as did a nationally known glassblower. A local painter said she could clearly visualize every image of mine from this series that she had ever seen. On the other hand, the director of a museum at a southern college disliked them intensely.
Generally people with painting, craft, fine art and art history backgrounds have liked them. However, people with computer, or photography, or academic backgrounds
have disliked them. I rarely get a neutral response.
I’ve been in this business long enough to know that you create images for those who like your work and not for those who don’t. I also know that when I get strong positive and negative reactions, I must be doing something


These images, posted on the web by Doble in 1997 (or earlier), and what appear to be the original versions (relocated around 2000) can still be found:


The website includes one animated image “Woman Descending Stairs” :


Doble’s current site explains:

Muybridge’s work can be thought of as a scientific study — which would not be inaccurate. However, in his exploration of the human figure in motion, various frames reveal striking angles that make wonderful compositions involving the human form. To me, as a primarily candid photographer, his work when studied closely shows the best angles for natural movement, natural figures, — as none of his work is posed. I own the complete set of Muybridge books published by Dover and spent several years studying them (not an exaggeration). Later in the mid-1980s I converted a number of his shots into an early form of computer and digital photography. Using my own system (I wrote much of the software) and a cheap Radio Shack computer, I copied selected frames and then colorised them. Now that I am working with a sophisticated digital camera 25 years later, his work still echoes in many of my compositions, such as thinking in terms of a series of sequential photos (see my series above) or in taking candid shots of the human figure in motion.

Doble is the author of several books about digital photography. A wide range of his work may be seen on his current website:


I contacted him recently and Rick wrote to me:

….. now in the last ten years all that study of motion has paid off handsomely with my “Painting with Light” photographs that involve photos of motion over time (i.e. photos take with a slow shutter speeds such as 2-10 seconds). My book on “Experimental Digital Photography” (on Amazon now — available May 4) covers this aspect of photography and includes a substantial mention of Muybridge along with one of his photographic sequences.
To see these slow shutter speed images go to:


Images on this blog are reproduced by kind permission of the artist.

Further information on the early Muybridge-related work:

History of Doble’s exhibit of Muybridge digital images
[taken from webpage created c.1997]

Exhibit dates (North Gallery):
Sept 8, 1995 – Oct. 29, 1995
Printed in color, one to a page,
April, 1994,
publication of UNC-Charlotte
FINALIST –                                   1994
Sponsored by the
Museum of Modern Art of Miami
ONE MAN SHOW: WOMAN IN MOTION                1993
30 enlarged color computer images based on
the photographs of Eadweard Muybridge:
Cambron Black Gallery, Beaufort, NC
FEATURE ARTICLE                              1993
Carteret News-Times, Morehead City-Beaufort
“Artist to bring 113-year-old work
‘back to the future'”
HONORABLE MENTION                            1993
Carteret County Arts Council: Juried Show
PORTFOLIO PRESENTED                          1992
Society for Photographic Education,
Southern Chapter, Annual Convention
EXHIBIT                                      1992
Carteret Community College,
15 color computer printouts

IN PROGRESS SINCE 1988                       1988-1993
Five major programs written
in basic & assembly
to aid in digitizing
Muybridge photographs

Statement from the one man exhibit of digital imagery at the Cambron Black Gallery, Beaufort, NC (1993)

As a photographer for over 20 years, I decided in 1988 to explore the computer’s ability to work with photographic images. I wrote five major computer programs to aid me in digitizing pictures, and used these along with several commercial programs to transfer an image from a video camera, alter any of its 50,000 points (pixels), and then print it out in color. This was done on inexpensive equipment which produced a rough dot pattern that I liked for its painting-like quality.
Once I had accomplished this, I turned to the work of Eadweard  Muybridge. Being over a hundred years old, it was no longer under  copyright. His studies of human motion changed forever the way artists looked at the human body, and were instrumental in the development of modern painting  and motion pictures. They showed the continuous movement of a figure simultaneously from several  angles, each frame frozen in a split second, not artificially posed.
My goal was to redraw his figures with an artistic eye, through careful  selection and close cropping, as well as the addition of color,  background, abstraction, and mood. I wanted to create a new work, in much the same way as a musician creates a novel rendering of an older melody, or a classical composer orchestrates a piano
piece by a predecessor.
From thousands of shots I selected the few you see in this exhibit. The computer translated my video close-ups into shades of gray. I then assigned each shade of gray a color. Over several months I developed approx. 50 complete sets of colors (palettes) which I tried out on new pictures and modified. In addition I usually eliminated the lined background Muybridge had set up for reference, and sometimes added my own patterns. Occasionally I used computer techniques to abstract the figure.
These were then printed on an ink jet printer, using two different commercial printer drivers. I did this so I would have two hardcopy translations of the monitor image to choose from. I also replaced a chip in the printer to get richer colors. The final step was to make color laser copies, which both enlarged and intensified the picture. I made each one myself, modifying the color settings on the copier as needed.