Muy Blog: Eadweard Muybridge Selection 2009-2012

Muy Blog: Eadweard Muybridge Selection 2009-2012

Now you can read Muy Blog (or at least, some of it) in olde-fashioned printed form. It’s on Amazon. My thanks to all of those whose words and pictures have helped to make this book.

bookcovers1CLICK HERE TO GO TO “LOOK INSIDE”

“There’s more to Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) than a strange name and the fact that he shot dead his wife’s lover. Best known for his sequence photographs of humans and animals in motion, the ‘galloping horse photographer’ has left a legacy of scientific and artistic work that continues to influence visual media today. A spinoff from the website The Compleat Muybridge, is Muy Blog on WordPress, keeping Muybridge enthusiasts up to date with what’s happening in the wide world of Muybridge and his images. This souvenir selection is from the first four years of news, research and comment. Read about the modern Profilograph bronze sculpture technique that morphs a galloping horse into a four-dimensional artwork, illustrating time as well as space. Follow the 1895 commotion about the hugely expensive folio Animal Locomotion: “not one in twenty thousand would undertand it…” Enjoy the evocative lyrics of “Good Evening, Major” – almost the last words that Flora Muybridge’s lover would ever hear – from the engaging video by the band Accordions. Find out what connects Ronald Reagan, Muybridge, and Death Valley. Enjoy the zoöpraxographer’s influence on the cartoonists of the late 19th century. Follow the author as he goes “In search of Helios”. Was Eadweard Muybridge really ‘The Father of the Motion Picture’? Read about the exhibitions, the controversy, and The Smartest Kid on Earth. Catch up with Muy Blog in this handy printed form.”

Paperback: 206 pages
ISBN-10: 1494844184
ISBN-13: 978-1494844189
Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 1.1 cm

About the Author
Stephen Herbert is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture, Kingston University, London. Kingston is Muybridge’s home town. A Muybridge specialist for more than 25 years, he has lectured widely on the history of optical media and his contributions have appeared in academic journals, encyclopedias, magazines, books, films, tv , radio, and on the web. His web site The Compleat Eadweard Muybridge, together with Muy Blog on WordPress, cover the world of Muybridge in all its forms – historical research, modern artworks, digital re-imagining, and much more. Zoetropes and other ‘scopes and ‘tropes are celebrated at The Wheel of Life [stephenherbert.co.uk/wheelHOME.htm] The wider world of 19th-century motion pictures is the subject of Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema [victorian-cinema.net]. The Projection Box, established in 1994, publishes and sells monographs about pre-cinema, the magic lantern, early and silent film, and optical entertainments.

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Early Popular Visual Culture

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I’m a little late in posting details of a Special Muybridge issue of the Routledge academic journal Early Popular Visual Culture, for which I was pleased to be guest editor. The contents, in no particular order, are as follows:

Early Popular Visual Culture
Volume 11, Issue 1, 2013

Eadweard Muybridge issue : Introduction
Stephen Herbert

A ‘roundup’ of Muybridge-related activity, 2010-2012.

Reflections on time, motion and photomechanics
Jonathan Shaw

This article is a reflection on my own practice and its connection to changing representations of time and movement within photography. In my work as an artist and photographer, I have endeavoured to develop a particular perspective on the relation between the heritage of photomechanical tools, new technologies, memory and space. In what follows, I describe a series of pivotal moments in the formation of this perspective as they exemplify a specific strand of photography, showing how they connect to wider transformations in the field of visual cultures.

Loops and joins: Muybridge and the optics of animation
Esther Leslie

Film is rightly understood to be an art of movement, but stasis plays a role too, from the first films which cranked into seeming life out of stillness to the mechanisms of contemporary animation, which is pervasive in cinema today. This article explores the relationship of stillness and movement in early cinema and pre-cinematic optical technologies, which demand a flick of the wrist to produce movement out of stasis. Muybridge’s sequential photographs found their way into some of these early and later technologies and provided the basis for such demonstration of the emergence of movement out of stillness. If mobility and stillness are concentrated oppositions in Muybridge’s work, so too are the related themes of animation and inanimateness, a partnering that relates less to the analytical dissection of life and more to the evocation of a spirited magic.

Muybridge, authorship, originality
Marta Braun

This article addresses questions concerning photographic authorship and originality, and how these issues relate to the work of Eadweard Muybridge. The subject of legitimacy concerning the scientific nature of many of Muybridge’s photographs is reviewed, considering his retouching, cropping, and rearrangement of images. The role of the University of Pennsylvania’s ‘Muybridge Committee’ is also discussed.

Eadweard Muybridge: Inverted modernism and the stereoscopic vision
Marek Pytel

Eadweard Muybridge’s stereoscopic photographs, published in large numbers before his famous motion sequence series were taken, have had much less exposure, and have been subject to far less research, than his chronophotographic images. This short study of just one of the more enigmatic examples of his stereographs considers some relevant aspects of visual perception, and the circular image, proposing connections between these aspects of Muybridge’s work and the Rotoreliefs of Marcel Duchamp.

Chronophotography in the context of moving pictures
Deac Rossell

This article, originally a talk given at Kingston Museum in 2010, considers the ‘four great chronophotographers’ – Eadweard Muybridge, Étienne-Jules Marey, Georges Demenÿ, and Ottomar Anschütz, and their reputations as ‘inventors of cinema’ – in the context of achievements by lesser known workers including Victor von Reitzner, George William de Bedts, Ernst Kohlrausch, Robert Dempsey Gray, and William Gilman Thompson, many of whom saw a different methodology for making series photographs turn into moving pictures, for different purposes. The article suggests ways in which the story of chronophotography in the context of moving pictures is currently incomplete.

Plus related book reviews.

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Muybridge, the inevitable story

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Well, it was only a matter if time before someone would use Muybridge in a novel that took the basic facts of his life, and added generous helpings of fictional events and characters. From Amazon:

“Moments Captured is the captivating story of two indelible individuals and a shattering murder in late nineteenth-century San Francisco. An epic saga of young America flexing its muscle, it is roughly based on the life of the great photographer Edward Muybridge. Crossing the country with his camera and outsized ambition, Muybridge meets the emancipated young dancer Holly Hughes, and inexorably she becomes the true focus of his life- though a corrupt robber baron interested in Muybridge’s talent for technology comes between them.

Through Seidman’s finely drawn prose, we witness nation-building on a colossal scale, along with the politics of wile, greed, and seduction. With an intense love affair at its center and a true-to-life narrative of art and technology, this novel brings to life one of the most picaresque settings in American history.”

There’s Wild West action aplenty:

“Stagecoach and horsemen were sixty yards from the photographer when a bandit pulled up to the coach and leveled his six-gun right at the driver’s ear. The stagecoach braked. The rider grabbed the bridle of the offside horse and jerked back hard, stopping the horse in its tracks. The bleeding guard sprawled across the seat. A whipped-puppy moan wrenched its way out from the man’s shredded guts. “I got to look at Burt,” the driver pleaded. “He’s hurt real bad!” “Payroll first, then play nursemaid!” The outlaw’s voice was gravelly and commanding, yet something of an Eastern accent – Philadelphia, Baltimore, Muybridge couldn’t be sure – clung to it. Edward found himself creeping closer…..”

And Wild West women, too….

“Still, untimely images of Edith, a skirt dancer he had known, incinerated the remnants of his composure … Pleasure lay diffused everywhere along her lean, suggestive body, and so, in such a mood, she remained avidly in touch with herself, her fingers exploring, slowly palpating a curve, a crevice….”

That’s enough of that. I wonder how many of these imaginary incidents in Muybridge’s life will seep through into factual accounts and our general perception of the man and his work. The book has gained some good, genuine reviews, and I look forward to reading it.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Attitudes of Animals in Motion (1881) at Stanford Digital Repository

 

Recently added to the digital repository of Stanford University, is the rare album The Attitudes of Animals in Motion (1881).

If you don’t have the 2010 Taschen book that includes a version of this album, now’s your opportunity to see all of this hugely important work online. It comprises photographic sequences arranged from the results of Muybridge’s two working seasons at Leland Stanford’s Palo Alto farm.

 

 

http://lib.stanford.edu/special-collections-and-university-archives/muybridges-attitudes-animals-motion-1881-available-stanf

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Muybridge and The Smartest Kid on Earth

Now here’s something I missed a long time ago, and shouldn’t have. A graphic novel representation of Muybridge and his Zoopraxographical Hall at the 1893 World’s Fair, in Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, a graphic novel  written and illustrated by Chris Ware. (Pantheon Books 2000)

Wikipedia tell us: “The story was previously serialized in the pages of Ware’s comic book Acme Novelty Library, between 1995 and 2000 and previous to that, in the alternative Chicago weekly New City.

Plot summary
Jimmy Corrigan is a meek, lonely middle aged man who meets his father for the first time in a Michigan town over Thanksgiving weekend. Jimmy is an awkward and cheerless character with an overbearing mother and a very limited social life. Jimmy attempts to escape his unhappiness via an active imagination that gets him into awkward situations. A parallel story set in the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 shows Jimmy’s grandfather as a lonely little boy and his difficult relationship with an abusive father, Jimmy’s great grandfather. Another storyline shows Jimmy as a lonesome child of divorce, suggesting that this was Jimmy’s “real” childhood, while his “Smartest Kid on Earth” adventures are probably his fantasies.”

I have a sheaf of Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library comics still lying in a plan chest here, collected in the late 90s when I still maintained some knowledge of what was going on in the worlds of comics. I was very keen on Jimmy Corrigan, but certainly didn’t see the Muybridge pages.

One of the Jimmy Corrigan ‘Acme Novelty’ books

Another web site tells us: “Chris Ware was born in 1967 and his hugely popular Jimmy Corrigan was awarded The Guardian First Book Award in 2001. Although it originally appeared as a syndicated newspaper strip in London from 1993 to 1999, US author and artist Ware conceived it, from the outset, as a lengthy narrative.

The work, published by Jonathan Cape, combines innovative comic book art, hand lettering and graphic design to tell the story of Jimmy Corrigan, a boy with the face of a disappointed old man, and his relationship with his absent father.

Ware has stated that he drew inspiration from ‘original advertising drawings done for a depression-era Chicago cosmetics firm where all the typography was hand-done with a brush and white ink.’”

Chris Ware’s comics have included a cutout peepshow, zoetrope, flip book, and mutoscope.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Degas and ‘Picturing Movement’ at the Royal Academy

Your tardy blogger has finally been to see Degas and the Ballet. Picturing Movement, at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. A brief visit only, and I shall be returning for a more extensive tour – to learn more about Degas and enjoy his paintings, drawings and sculptures, and not just to admire the exhibits relating to chronophotography – before the show closes on 11 December.

An unrepeatable opportunity to see all of these Degas works, so do try to get to the exhibition if you can. First impressions then.

The catalogue, by Richard Kendall and Jill Devonyar is an attractive and engaging piece of research and presentation and great value (reduced to less than £15 at the time of my visit). Muybridge images used include the usual Zoopraxiscope colour photograph (with the top and chimney that don’t actually belong); the colour disc White and Black Running Race; a nice 1889 letter from Muybridge to Frederick A. Eaton of the RA, concerning Muybridge’s forthcoming lectures there; and a single image from ‘Annie G. in Canter’ (Animal Locomotion plate 621) together with an exact copy in chalk by Degas. Many images relating to Marey’s work are also included. The text concerning the relationships between the work of Marey, Muybridge, and Degas is carefully researched and well written and very interesting to read; and of permanent value.

White and Black Race (Zoopraxiscope disc)

The exhibition is spread through several rooms and wasn’t crowded during my visit. There’s a great deal of material concerning the relationship between Degas and photography in general, as well as chronophotography. Most of the Muybridge material relates to aspects of dance postures. One of Marey’s large chrono plate cameras sits in a rather gloomy cabinet in one corner, failing to look interesting. The Zoopraxiscope is better presented, but in a context that raises some questions. In the same cabinet is one picture disc, the 1893 Athletes Running (White and Black Running Race); two athletes, one white and one black, compete in a track race, with a large audience of matchstick figures in the background. This disc is one of the series of drawings based on Muybridge photo sequences combined with imaginary elements – in this case the people watching the race. On the wall above the machine is a large video projection; an animation of a Muybridge sequence of a male athlete performing a ballet-related movement, taken from an Animal Locomotion reproduction of the actual photographic images. Judging from the overheard discussions of those examining this exhibit, visitors are understandably confused. The animation that they’re watching doesn’t appear to have anything in common with the images on the displayed picture disc.

First Ballet Action (from Animal Locomotion)

Of course it’s tempting to animate the Animal Locomotion sequences as the result is very seductive, but it seems to me that this particular exhibit should have had, instead, an accompanying video of a disc animation – perhaps the popular subject Woman Dancing [Kingston EM0052] which is probably the most relevant to the exhibition’s subject – to bring some point to the display of the Zoopraxiscope. The exhibition curators have missed an important trick here, since the animated disc images would have made apparent to the visitor a lesser-known aspect of Muybridge’s work that relates directly to drawing and painting, surely of interest in an exhibition about Degas and movement. The catalogue touches on the production methods of the actual disc pictures and gets it nearly right, so it’s difficult to understand how this misleading display option was decided upon. And since the name of the artist, Irwin Faber, who interpreted and drew these extrapolations from Muybridge sequences is known, that name should have been there too. It seems that there’s still some way to go before art historians apply their usually very meticulous discipline in presenting accounts of technical processes and artist attribution, to peripheral subjects such as Zoopraxography. But there was a certain satisfaction in seeing the Zoopraxiscope back at the RA, after almost 130 years.

More on the exhibition, with less harping on about my own view of its very few shortcomings, soon.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

(White and Black Race Running Race photo courtesy Kingston Museum)

Muybridge / Watkins / Naef

This is from a recent blog:

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes
[October 31, 2011, 5:41 pm]
Muybridge’s Watkinses? NYPL lecture

Last June, MAN broke the news that Weston Naef, the leading Carleton Watkins scholar, believed that many works attributed to Eadweard Muybridge were in fact Watkins pictures.

Naef’s revelation prompted much debate and discussion. Philip Brookman, the curator of the first-ever Muybridge retrospective that started the debate, thought that Naef was likely on to something. However, Muybridge biographer Rebecca Solnit attacked Naef (and MAN) in The Guardian, accusing him of starting a “campaign of innuendo.”

On the occasion of the publication of his book of Watkins’ mammoth plate pictures, Naef will continue the conversation about the Watkins-Muybridge relationship in a lecture at the New York Public Library (which has significant collections of both Watkins and Muybridge). The lecture, titled “The Counterfactual Thesis: Eadweard Muybridge’s Debt to Carleton Watkins,” will take place in the NYPL’s Berger Forum, Room 227 at 6pm.

Rather than “The Counterfactual Thesis: Eadweard Muybridge’s Debt to Carleton Watkins,” the website of the New York Public Library announces the lecture under an abbreviated title:

Counterfactual: Muybridge’s Debt to Watkins
Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 6 – 8 p.m.
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Margaret Liebman Berger Forum

Weston Naef will speak on the visual dialogue between Carleton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge, with reference to his forthcoming book, Carleton Watkins: The Complete Mammoth Photographs. The talk will present Watkins (a significant range of whose work is held by the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs) as the most dominant force in California photography between 1860 and 1890, and analyze Watkins’ influence on Muybridge, who is considered to be the father of moving pictures.

Tyler Green’s title “Muybridge’s Watkinses?” perhaps implies that some photographs attributed to Muybridge are in fact by Watkins, and the text of his blog piece certainly states that Weston Naef has been saying this, and indeed Weston Naef has made such statements, privately and publicly.

We could analyse this further. My admittedly limited grasp of English grammar suggests to me that “Muybridge’s Watkinses?” (possessive, followed by plural noun) – implies that Muybridge acquired objects created by Watkins. Had the blog title been “Muybridge’s / Watkins’s?” (possessive, followed by possessive), it could be seen as asking the question; ‘Are these by Muybridge or by Watkins?’ – which is perhaps what Tyler Green meant?

Now, it’s one thing to create an argument about the influence of Watkins on Muybridge, and quite another to suggest that photographs attributed to Muybridge are in fact by Watkins. As a grammatical term, counterfactual arguably suggests a causal effect (Muybridge’s photos wouldn’t have existed, or would have been different, had it not been for Watkins’ precedents); which is a very different thing to stating that some photographs attributed to Muybridge are in fact by Watkins.  Or does the counterfactual thesis claim that attribution to Muybridge of certain photographs is against the facts (or evidence)? I can’t help thinking that this insertion of ‘counterfactual’ in the talk’s title is provocative, and simply obfuscates what is really a simple question.

So what we would like to know is: Does Weston Naef, in his lecture, stick to his statements concerning attribution – that many photographs attributed to Muybridge were taken by Watkins – and give details, or is he simply making a case for Muybridge having been influenced by Watkins? Or, since Weston Naef’s new book (to be published 15 November) has only three references to Muybridge listed in the Index, is this lecture simply a puff for the book, but using Muybridge’s name to draw an audience, who probably wouldn’t have heard of Carleton Watkins? Perhaps someone who attends the lecture could let us know! And I’d be pleased to receive your views on whether I’m misinterpreting the term counterfactual. For the record, I do think there are many questions to be answered about the attribution of certain ‘Muybridge’ photographs, and I hope that continuing research will discover how much can be definitely established.

Possibly I’m being unreasonably cynical here; the main subject of the new book is the Mammoth photographs, so perhaps Weston Naef’s assertions that ‘Muybridge’ photographs in other formats are in fact by Watkins will be dealt with in other lectures, or in future publications. And a Note to the Reader states that ‘Reference to Houseworth & Co prints and Muybridge prints that relate to Watkins is made here’ – which will be very useful. I understand that details of some photographs in smaller than mammoth formats, and details of some stereographs, are also included in the book.

Muybridge aside, this volume is a great achievement for all concerned, revealing these wonderful photographs of Carleton Watkins and promising to be a superb new reference resource for historians of photography.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert