Eadweard Muybridge: Father of the Motion Picture?

Kingston Museum and Heritage Service

Kingston Museum and Heritage Service

And as a final post for 2012, the text of a talk given at Kingston Museum at the opening of the Muybridge: Revolutions exhibition, 2010.

Eadweard Muybridge: Father of the Motion Picture?
Writers dealing with the motion sequence photography of Eadweard Muybridge have traditionally described him as the ‘Father of the Motion Picture’, and the title of this talk is taken from one of the first biographies. In popular accounts of the subject, this is still a major theme. In this talk, Stephen Herbert examines whether this perspective is valid or relevant. Muybridge’s place in Victorian attempts at producing moving images is investigated, together with the historiography of Muybridge in the 20th-Century, when cinema was the dominant visual medium, and onward into the digital age. For each generation, Muybridge’s work has a new meaning that relates to our own experiences and the media of our time.

And you’ll find the rest here:

http://www.stephenherbert.co.uk/muyFATHER.htm

 

Happy New Year!

 

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

 

Little Triggers

Too late I’m afraid, as the last performance takes place as I type, but for the record there was a new Muybridge play in London this week.

This, edited from The [good] Review website:
The Good (Inte)review – Sean Rigby and Alex Vlahov
Posted by Kieran James on 13/08/2012
Soggy Arts Theatre Company was formed by final year students at LAMDA earlier this year, and over the next week they will be performing their debut piece Little Triggers (A Myth About Photography) at the Old Peanut Factory in Hackney. The play documents the adventures, inventions and rivalry of two spearheads of the motion picture industry. … To help provide a little more information about the play … we caught up with Writer/Director Alex Vlahov and one of the stars Sean Rigby to ask them a few questions.

 
Alright Boys?
ALEX: Fine thanks!
SEAN: Aye grand.
Tell us about Little Triggers.
ALEX: I guess it’s a historical black comedy. About two real photographers, Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne Jules-Marey, swashbucklers of early motion picture. They are dropped into a provincial English village in the 1880s for a Midsummer Festival competition.
Who do you play?
SEAN: I play Eadweard Muybridge. A renowned Photographer, inventor and showman who has arrived in the English countryside to claim the top prize in an invention competition.
ALEX: I’m the writer/director/coffee-boy.
How have rehearsals been going?
ALEX: It’s been an absolute pleasure. I’m constantly astounded by the cast’s commitment but I also laugh so much during rehearsal.
SEAN: Great. Alex has imbued the entire process with a sense of play and freedom. No one is precious with their work in the slightest.
How did this production get started?
ALEX: I took a history of film class at UCLA in 2009 and we learned about Marey and Muybridge before they screened the silent films. They were both pioneers in the new art form of motion-picture, but I was struck by Muybridge’s violently wild life, his murder in California, and I got to thinking about cinema’s bloody origins. There’s a culture of death and film, you only have to look at Sal Mineo or Natalie Wood or John Belushi. Following this idea after a couple of revisions, plus living in England for three years, I thought it might work better as a lie-fable. Is lie-fable a word?
SEAN: I said yes.
Has it helped being so familiar with the rest of the company?
ALEX: Oh yeah, there’s a shorthand there.
SEAN: Yes, but there are a few people in the cast whom I haven’t worked with before so that has been a real treat too.
How can people see the show and where can they find more information?
ALEX: There are about 30 seats per performance, plus standing ….  August 16th-18th, 7:30 PM (The Old Peanut Factory, 22 Smeed Rd., Hackney, E3 2NR).
Any plans for Soggy Arts following this?
SEAN: Hopefully producing more new writing. Having found such a unique and wonderful space in deepest darkest Hackney, Soggy Arts will continue to produce exciting new work all over London. I know they are releasing a short film at the start of Autumn, so watch this space.
ALEX: Rumour through the grapevine has it that Soggy Arts is dedicated to producing original work and providing a unique twist on overlooked texts. For specifics on the company, talk to Barney Mcelholm and Laurie Jamieson.
Will Do! Who is your favourite actor?
ALEX: Robert Mitchum. Tilda Swinton.
SEAN: Brendan Gleeson. Frances McDormand.
If you could have any part at any theatre what would it be and where?
ALEX: Edmund in a Wooster Group production of King Lear.
SEAN: I’d play Caliban at the Chorley Little Theatre.
The Good Review would like to thank Alex and Sean for their time, and wish them and the production all the very best. For more information about Little Triggers or to book tickets to see the show please click here.”

http://thegoodreview.co.uk/2012/08/the-good-intereview-sean-rigby-and-alex-vlahov/

Posted here by Stephen Herbert – with thanks to the [GOOD] review!

Muybridge in Manchester

The very welcome access to searchable digital scans of millions of “new” pages of British Newspapers (with more being added all the time), has started to give new information on Muybridge’s whereabouts and activities. I have had an ongoing problem with establishing the dates of his Manchester lectures c.1890, mentioned by Hendricks but difficult to pin down. The originals of the relevant newspapers at Colindale were unavailable for conservation reasons, and a quick check of available microfilms proved a dead end. Too lazy to go to Manchester to check originals there, I’ve waited until the scans were available online.

The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser includes an advertisement (22 January 1890) for his lecture given that evening at the Manchester Athenaeum, which was repeated at the Concert Hall, Peter-street, on February 21st., “before a large audience”.

On 4 March 1890 the Manchester Courier, page 8, notes the purchase of:
“….Mr. Muybridge’s instantaneous photographs of animals in motion. These will be of great use to artists and scientific investigators, and cannot be considered dearly bought for £105, as they consist no less than 780 plates and fill 11 folio volumes…”

On 15 December 1890, the same newspaper noted (page 7): CONVERSAZIONE AT OWENS COLLEGE. “Mr. Muybridge gave an exhibition of instantaneous photographs in the Council Chamber… “, and on 18th December there appeared a report, p.6, of a lecture the previous evening in the Town Hall, to “a crowded audience”.

And it’s here that things get interesting. My chronology includes a lecture at the Hotel de la Société de Geographie in Paris on 24 January 1891, reported in the San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin on February 28th. But then, the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser for 19 February 1891, includes an advertisement for a lecture to be given in Manchester on the 27th.

So … if my transcriptions of the San Francisco Bulletin are correct (it’s not unknown for me make mistakes 😉 and it’s difficult to check this one at present), this means that Muybridge was lecturing in Manchester on 18 December 1890, popped over to Paris for a presentation on 24 January 1891, scuttled back to Manchester to give a talk on 27 February, before careering off to Berlin for talks in early March. No flying, and no Eurotunnel, either.

All of this will be checked out before being added to the Chronology.

The British Library newspapers search facility is free, with charges for seeing digital scans of the results.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

The Tycoon and the Inventor


A couple of years ago I spent a pleasant lunch chatting with author Edward Ball about Eadweard Muybridge, who was to be the subject of his next book. A while back I heard that it was to be published by Random House, and the title The Octopus and the Inventor: Eadweard Muybridge, the Killer Who Created the Movies cropped up (the ‘octopus’ being Leland Stanford) but then things went quiet. I notice that Doubleday have now listed the book as forthcoming, with the title The Tycoon and the Inventor.

This from Amazon:

From the National Book Award-winning author of Slaves in the Family, a riveting true life/true crime narrative of the partnership between the murderer who invented the movies and the robber baron who built the railroads.

One hundred and thirty years ago Eadweard Muybridge invented stop-motion photography, anticipating and making possible motion pictures. He was the first to capture time and play it back for an audience, giving birth to visual media and screen entertainments of all kinds. Yet the artist and inventor Muybridge was also a murderer who killed coolly and meticulously, and his trial is one of the early instances of a media sensation. His patron was railroad tycoon (and former California governor) Leland Stanford, whose particular obsession was whether four hooves of a running horse ever left the ground at once. Stanford hired Muybridge and his camera to answer that question. And between them, the murderer and the railroad mogul launched the age of visual media.

Set in California during its frontier decades, The Tycoon and the Inventor interweaves Muybridge’s quest to unlock the secrets of motion through photography, an obsessive murder plot, and the peculiar partnership of an eccentric inventor and a driven entrepreneur. A tale from the great American West, this popular history unspools a story of passion, wealth, and sinister ingenuity.

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Books (24 April 2012)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0385525753
ISBN-13: 978-0385525756

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Muybridge: The Eye in Motion

Professor Stephen Barber of Kingston University London, currently engaged in the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship project on the Scrapbook of Eadweard Muybridge, has annouced details of his forthcoming book, Muybridge: the Eye in Motion, to be published by Solar Books (USA distribution by University of Chicago Press) in 2012. This promises to be a major new book, covering many aspects of the man and his work, as outlined in the Introduction. Central to the book is what Barber describes as ‘that unique ocular object’, now held by Kingston Museum:

Muybridge’s Scrapbook, in which he amassed every trace he viewed as essential about his work, across a span of over thirty years, so that it accumulated into an extraordinary memory-book that interrogated and overspilled time and its own parameters.

…. an aberrant vision-machine as well as a time-machine, and an irreducible archive in its own right, that holds revelations not only about Muybridge’s work, but also into the origins of film, the future of digital culture, and the perception of urban and corporeal forms.

The second part of the book examines

the close and revealing connections between Muybridge’s work and that of two key but neglected instigators of cinema, Max and Emil Skladanowsky, who undertook the first-ever public screening of celluloid-based films for a paying audience [in Europe] (using a projector, the ‘Bioskop’, they had built themselves, and showing films they had shot themselves, with a film-camera they had constructed themselves), on 1 November 1895, at a hotel in Berlin, two years after Muybridge’s formative glass-disc projection events in his Zoopraxographical Hall at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition

In the third part of this work, Professor Barber

… interrogates that pivotal memory-document of Muybridge’s work – in many ways, a crucial document for the understanding of how contemporary visual cultures originated – by disassembling it into the fragments from which it was created, in order to probe the all-encompassing ocular and corporeal processes at stake in Muybridge’s work.

Muybridge’s pervasive inspiration extends far beyond the domain of film and photography, encompassing visual art, poetry, performance, fiction, digital media, choreography, and theory.

The book also examines

… the archival, preservational implications of Muybridge’s work and its own movement into the future, as a body of work whose contrary amalgam is fused by preoccupations with loss, speed, perception, projection, corporeality, vision and the ‘tactile’ eye. In many ways, those preoccupations are exactly those of contemporary digital culture, and connect with archival issues around the uniqueness and potential reproducibility of objects, through such processes as digitisation. While forming a seminal presence for contemporary culture, Muybridge’s work, in its non-replicating resistance to assimilation, also necessitates an archive of its own. In a parallel way, his Scrapbook, itself a self-archiving by Muybridge of his work’s fragmentary traces in texts and images, also demands the formulation of an archive consisting of one unique artefact, in the way that Jacques Derrida, in his final interviews, envisaged objects of such all-consuming resonance that they required a tangible separation and a distinct space of their own, in order more intensively to then impact upon and reveal the surrounding worlds, and their visual cultures; in that sense, no object deserves its ‘sacrosanct’ one-artefact archive more than Muybridge’s Scrapbook.

Stephen Barber tackles  much, much more in this new work – do read the Introduction, which is online now.

http://muybridgesscrapbook.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/1-the-past-and-the-future/

Stephen Barber holds a PhD from the University of London. He has previously held posts at Sussex University, the University of Tokyo, the Berlin University of the Arts, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, the Keio University Research Centre for Art in Tokyo, and the California Institute of the Arts, where he was a Visiting Professor in 2007-8. He has been a Professor since 2002.

Stephen has received numerous awards and prizes for his research, from such foundations and funding bodies as the Leverhulme Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy and the London Arts Board, in the UK; the Rockefeller Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Annenberg Foundation, in the USA; the DAAD-Programm in Germany; the Japan Foundation, the Daiwa Foundation, and the Saison Foundation, in Japan

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Central America albums online

Volcano of Agua. A view of clouds. (Boston Athenaeum)

http://www.bostonathenaeum.org/node/813

The Boston Athenaeum has put all 202 photographs from its 2-album set of Muybridge’s views of Guatemala and Panama, online. Many of these images have never been republished in printed form, so this is a very welcome development.

Central America album. (Boston Athenaeum)

Eadweard Muybridge • Central America • 1876

Eadweard Muybridge Photograph Album of Central America, Vols. I and II
Eadweard Muybridge (Kingston, England 1830 – 1904 Kingston, England)
Central America. Illustrated by Muybridge, 1876
San Francisco, California: Eadweard Muybridge, 1876
Boston Athenæum purchase, Appleton Fund, 1878

From the website:

“In February 1875, Eadweard Muybridge boarded a Pacific Mail Steamship Company vessel in San Francisco bound for Central America, where he would photograph the localities served by the company’s freight and passenger business. It was expected that Muybridge’s photographs, when distributed and shown at international exhibitions, would encourage tourism and investment. He traveled for nine months to Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador. His final stop was Guatemala, where he spent six months documenting its principal towns and coffee plantations.

Champerico. Hauling a Launch on shore. (Boston Athenaeum)

Back in San Francisco, Muybridge enhanced the photographs, adding cloudscapes and moonlight to images already featuring towering volcanoes, tropical vegetation, Spanish-colonial architecture, and indigenous populations. Muybridge made a number of albums for presentation to the appropriate people. The Boston Athenæum’s two bound volumes contain a total of 202 photographs, some are signed Muybridge on the negative and are the most complete record of Muybridge’s Central American journey.”

The time-frozen waves in this photograph indicate that short exposures, already experimented with in 1872 or 73, were coming within Muybridge’s technical reach.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

National Inventors Hall of Fame: Muybridge is 2011 inductee

Announced March 3:

Eadweard Muybridge is to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame on May 4th.

Alexandria VA (March 3, 2011)—Continuing to celebrate its mission of recognizing and fostering invention, the National Inventors Hall of Fame has announced its 2011 Inductees.  The life-changing innovations that have come about through this year’s class include the sensor that makes cameras in today’s cell phones possible, the battery that powers most implantable defibrillators, and the basis of exchanging secure information over the Internet.

This year’s ‘Living Inductees’ include Steve Sasson, for the Digital Camera. In 1975, Kodak engineer Steve Sasson created a device that captured an image, converted it to an electronic signal, digitized the signal, and stored the image—the first digital camera.

2011 Historical inductees with achievements related to photography and motion pictures include:
Thomas Armat (1866-1948), Motion Picture Projector
Hannibal Goodwin (1822-1900), Transparent Flexible Nitrocellulose Film
Frederick Ives (1856-1937), Color Photography
Charles F. Jenkins (1867-1934), Motion Picture Projector
Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), Stop Action Photography

Thomas Armat

Hannibal Goodwin

Frederick Ives

Charles F. Jenkins

Eadweard Muybridge

 

 

 

 

 

National Inventors Hall of Fame

Announces 2011 Inductees
Inventors of Digital Camera, First Bar Code, Industrial Robot, and Defibrillator Batteries to be Honored

Alexandria VA (March 3, 2011)—Continuing to celebrate its mission of recognizing and fostering invention, the National Inventors Hall of Fame has announced its 2011 Inductees.  The life-changing innovations that have come about through this year’s class include the sensor that makes cameras in today’s cell phones possible, the battery that powers most implantable defibrillators, and the basis of exchanging secure information over the Internet.

This year’s Induction ceremony, sponsored in part by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Kauffman Foundation, take place on May 4 at the historic Patent Office Building, now the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington, D.C.  The location is particularly appropriate because this year’s class of inductees includes a group of 29 historical inventors who will be recognized posthumously, most of whom would have submitted patent applications to the same building where they will be honored.

From Wikipedia:

The National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recognizing, honoring and encouraging invention and creativity through the administration of its programs. The Hall of Fame honors the men and women responsible for the great technological advances that make human, social and economic progress possible.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame was founded in 1973 on the initiative of H. Hume Mathews, then chairman of the National Council of Patent Law Associations (now called the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Associations).[1] The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office became a cosponsor of the NIHF the following year.[2]

The Hall is currently located in Alexandria, Virginia, with satellite offices in the Washington, D.C., area and in Los Angeles, California. Originally housed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Hall outgrew its location and moved to Akron. Ohio. The Hall of Fame building in Akron, which also housed hands-on interactive exhibits, opened to the public in 1995. The building is currently under construction to build the National Inventors Hall of Fame School Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Learning.

During the annual induction ceremony, a new class of inventors is recognized. Inventors must hold a U.S. patent to be considered, and the invention must have contributed to the welfare of mankind and have promoted the progress of science and the useful arts. A National Selection Committee and Blue Ribbon Panel select inductees.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame takes part in physical activities that embody the inventive spirit. The National Inventors Hall of Fame promotes future generations of inventors through Invent Now Kids, a major subsidiary of the organization, and the Collegiate Inventors Competition. In addition, the National Inventors Hall of Fame is involved with many ventures as well as special projects with national partners.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert