More new art across the media

In part due to the huge exposure that Muybridge and his work has had this past year, new artworks continue to proliferate across the media – dance, photography, painting, music, theatre, video – on YouTube, blogs, exhibitions ….. some derivative, some innovative. I like these two pieces. The first is a collage by Carolyn Brady and appears on Flickr. (To see Carolyn’s work on Flickr, search “vintagepix”).

(c) Carolyn Brady

And this ‘book’ on YouTube, by “msbrittknees” is great fun…….

And I don’t know whether it’s supposed to be, but the BBC’s “The Weird World of Eadweard Muybridge” is on YouTube too.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Weird Adventures airs on BBC tv

Andy Serkis. Photo (c) BBC

Apart from re-enactments in a 1960s US programme introduced by Ronald Reagan, Eadweard Muybridge as a character of considerable importance in the story of the creation and recording of the modern world has been absent from television. The Weird Adventures of Eadweard Muybridge is the first programme to attempt to tell the full story. It does touch on most aspects, leaving out the bits with very little visual material – the five years spent as a bookseller in New York, totally avoided in the commentary – and his various activities during the five ‘lost years’ back in Europe in the 60s. But for a one-hour programme, it packs a lot in.

Philip Brookman talks with Alan Yentob. Photo (c) BBC

The talking heads include Philip Brookman, whose exhibition in Washington did so much to introduce Muybridge to a wider public; author Rebecca Solnit, in splendid hat, musing on Muybridge in San Francisco as she wanders through the harbour; print collector Michael Wilson marvelling at the artistry of the travel photographs; Jonathan Miller not getting it at all, and insisting that Muybridge was simply an entertainer; recent biographer and long-time chronophotography specialist Marta Braun talking about the Animal Locomotion sequences; art curator Ann Dumas of the Royal Academy of Arts explaining the connection with the ballet dancers of Degas; and Kingston Museum curator Peta Cook introducing the sacred scrapbook, and zoopraxiscope discs.

A nice touch was Stanford Red Barn (Palo Alto) horse trainer Rachel Williamson confirming that the 1870s horse photos are still used today in the equestrian world.

Rachel Williamson. Photo (c) BBC

I got my fair share of the running time, mostly talking about the complexities of the image projections at a Muybridge lecture, and I also managed to get the last word in. [voice from across the room – “you always do…”]

‘Andy Serkis as Muybridge’ said the blurb, and he appeared reading Muybridge’s own words, wearing just a hint of period costume, but no stick-on beard. Serkis was also one of the expert talking heads, since he’s very familiar with the subject, having been developing a Muybridge feature film project for some years. And of course, he’s best known for being Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy – his physical image altered by CG techniques, in a modern development of the motion capture and image manipulation used by Muybridge for converting his photo sequences to painted animations.

No recent news on the feature movie, but perhaps it will happen someday.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

The Weird Adventures of Eadweard Muybridge

Coming soon to BBC1 (UK): The Weird Adventures of Eadweard Muybridge – an episode of the Imagine… series. Your dedicated blogger will possibly appear in this, fluffing and spluttering his way through answers to a question or two. My interview took place in the lecture theatre of the Royal Institution, where Muybridge lectured in the 1880s – and not improved by the seating having recently been upholstered in an unforgivable shade of cerise.

Tuesday, 22:35 on BBC One (except Northern Ireland, Wales)

“Pioneer photographer, forefather of cinema, showman, murderer – Eadweard Muybridge was a Victorian enigma. He was born and died in Kingston upon Thames, but did his most famous work in California – freezing time and starting it up again, so that for the first time people could see how a racing horse’s legs moved. He went on to animate the movements of naked ladies, wrestlers, athletes, elephants, cockatoos and his own naked body, projecting his images publicly with a machine he invented and astounding audiences worldwide with the first flickerings of cinema. Alan Yentob follows in Muybridge’s footsteps as he makes – and often changes – his name, and sets off to kill his young wife’s lover. With Andy Serkis as Muybridge.”

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Too much Muybridge!

Too busy to blog properly. So just a quick roundup of events over the past few days…….

Monday – following some successful research that’s detailed in my previous post – to the Tate opening with Mo, and it’s full of wonderful things … of course. But I spend most of the time talking with nice people, including Philip Brookman, who was responsible for the original Washington show, and the marvellous catalogue, and Ian Warrell, Curator of 18th and 19th century British Art. Good to see a solid turnout from Kingston, Muybridge’s home town.

Tuesday, I write my talk, “Eadweard Muybridge – Father of the Motion Picture?” –  for the opening of Kingston Museum’s exhibition Muybridge Revolutions, which will be on the 18th of this month. Lots of pictures to find and arrange.

Wednesday, I’m at the Royal Institution – where our man lectured on several occasions – for a filmed interview with Alan Yentob, for a Muybridge edition of the BBC1 Imagine programme. It’s a two-shot so questions need to be answered quickly, which doesn’t allow any time for thinking, and I fluff and splutter my way through. Later, I get an email from the editor of the Magic Lantern Society Newsletter, asking if I’d write a review of the Tate show.

Today (Thursday), I’m trying to gather together the best reviews of the Tate show, for this blog. They’ll be listed soon. And – a friend who’s a member of the Royal Academy drops by with a copy of Poetry in Motion, an article by Simon Wilson in RA Magazine, Autumn 2010.

Plus … I’ve been asked to give a talk at the Tate Britain, as part of an evening of Muybridge-related events. Something about the Zoopraxiscope, maybe. Late at Tate: Muybridge. Friday 1 October 2010 . “Late at Tate Britain draws inspiration from pioneering Anglo-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge presenting an evening of specialist talks, early film, music and interactive experiments exploring colour, light, space and movement.”

Too much Muybridge for (less than) one week, even for me!

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Unsupported Transit (and other new videos)

Thanks in part to a contest arranged by NPR (National Public Radio) in the USA, lots more Muybridge-related videos are appearing on YouTube.  The first shown here displays a most ingenious and successful light sculpture.

Unsupported Transit aka Ghost Horse
This sculpture by Michael Brown uses small mirrors with a reverse cutout of Eadweard Muybridge’s galloping horse images. Light Emitting Diodes aimed at each mirror are quickly flashed, reflecting the image of the horse onto the frosted glass face of the Bell Jar. Illuminating the horses in the correct and reflecting the images in the same place on the jar reanimates Muybridges galloping horses. For more information visit
2004 LEDs, electronics, mirrors, vinyl, bell jar (55 x 18 x 18)

Muybridge Chess Set
Muybridge Chess Set doesn’t do much, but as an idea and graphic design it’s both amusing and accomplished.

Time Hop
Kitch and ‘cute’.

Over the Gate
A Magic Angle sculpture using a complex solid form to create shadow pictures – ingenious.

Still Beating
“The heart of animation still beats, from Muybridge to our present day.” A reflection on Muybridge and the nature of time, and very well crafted.

Frames – Muybridge  Horse Moving Through Frames. A Muybridge galloping horse completes a nostalgic still life set piece.

There are many, many more.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

The Man Who Made Pictures Move: podcast and competition

Walking, two models meeting, and partly turning. Corcoran Gallery of Art

Muybridge: The Man Who Made Pictures Move
by Neda Ulaby

A link from this review of Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change will take you to the NPR radio’s 6-minute introduction to Muybridge.

From the same page, you can enter this:

NPR-Corcoran Contest
Following In Muybridge’s Footsteps
Concept: Create an Eadweard Muybridge-inspired piece. NPR will select three submissions to feature on the Picture Show blog and the Corcoran Web site.
What To Submit: It may be a stop-motion animation, sequence of stills or anything else you can come up with that moves Muybridge into 2010.
How to Submit: Videos should be submitted to YouTube through NPR’s YouTube Direct channel below. [there are links on NPR’s page] Make sure to tag them NPRMuybridge and include your email address in the description so we can get in touch with you. Photos should be submitted through Flickr and tagged NPRMuybridge. Include your email address in the caption. You’ll know if you’ve submitted photos correctly if they show up here.
Deadline: 11:59 p.m., May 15, 2010

“There’s a common story here, one about human animals making their way through rigid modern structures that restrict and define their flow of movement. In a sped-up world, perhaps the work of the man who stopped time and then put it back in motion makes some kind of sense.”

National Public Radio (NPR) is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to 797 public radio stations in the United States.

Stephen Herbert

What is Muy Blog?

Paul Merton’s Weird and Wonderful World of Early Cinema

Paul Merton with one of the later Muybridge sequences, animated. (c) BBC.

In 2000 I was asked to create a mutoscope installation for the National Gallery exhibition Telling Time. I converted an 1890s Edison kinetoscope film sequence of dancer Annabelle into paper prints mounted on a belt (tedious and time consuming work), and reduced the ‘mechanism’ to a bare minimum – a roller with a handle. This arrangement ran for three months or so in the exhibition, alongside collotypes from Animal Locomotion, before the picture belt was donated to Hove Museum as part of their interactive display. I was pleased to see in a scene from Paul Merton’s Weird and Wonderful World of Early Cinema, that a decade later, Annabelle is still dancing at Hove. Which is a self-centred link to the programme, but this is my blog after all. With its excellent displays Hove Museum has become a natural home for investigating such subjects. It was also pleasing to see Eric Lange and Serge Bromberg of the French company Lobster Films, so important to the preservation and distribution of early cinema, being involved in the production.

This programme was an example of how, with the passage of time, exact factual details become rounded off and smoothed out, supposedly to make access to the information easier for the general viewer. The unprovenanced camera that Hove Museum bought at auction some years ago because it was the type used by George Albert Smith, and retained the circular type of mask that Smith used, has now become ‘the camera specifically built for Smith’. Merton tells an audience that yes, films had been in existence before being projected onto a screen, you turned a handle on a peepbox machine – when in fact the pre-projection Edison Kinetoscope peepshow was electrically driven, and the handcranked Mutoscope appeared only after the first screenings, which is a bit inconvenient from a simplified-history point of view. The film of a gardener being tricked by a boy, L’Arroseur Arrosé, (aka le Jardinier) was not, I’m fairly sure, the version shown at the first Lumière shows, but a remake. We can forgive that, as the film has a confusing history. (Nevertheless if anyone tried showing the remake of Stagecoach as the John Wayne version all hell would break loose.) Oh, and we were told that the Lumières’ gave their very first demonstration of the Cinématographe in December 1895 (not). And, restricting coverage to European cinema ensured that nothing need be said about the awkward fact that there had been film screenings in the USA prior to this. Chronology here:

The Harry Larkyns shooting. (c) BBC.

And Muybridge? Well he’s in there, including modern animations of horse sequences (the Palo Alto one is 1878/79, not 1877), but with nothing about how he made images move before celluloid film. Well all right, Zoopraxiscope is a bit of a jawbreaker, but glass picture discs could have been mentioned; it’s only three words. And the ‘zoetrope’ shown was a praxinoscope. (Do nature programmes get confused between goats and sheep?) Does any of this matter? I don’t know, perhaps I’m too close to the subject. The Larkyns affair is there of course, including a special acted bit of a man being shot and falling over. (But then who hasn’t arranged a re-enactment of the Larkyns shooting some time in their lives? I know I have…..)

Hard to please, ain’t I? But picky reservations aside, these programmes are valuable. To quote from The Bioscope, the premier website for silent film aficionados,

“Such programmes – which are rare enough in themselves – not only open up largely hidden films to new audiences, but should be a lesson to those of us who may know these films well to see them in a fresh light, not least as a television commissioner sees them.”

I enjoyed the excellent quality of the prints, especially the tinted examples, and Paul Merton has a very genuine interest in, and enthusiasm for, silent film material – even if his attempts to convey this to non-specialist audiences here sometimes come across as just a bit patronising, to the material as well as to the new audiences. The Paul Merton shows are part of a long tradition – I grew up with comedians Bob Monkhouse and Michael Bentine presenting silent movie clips on tv – and this one will certainly make the often amazing and frequently strange (weird and wonderful indeed) material of early (pre-WW1) cinema better known to many viewers.

BBC4 – you might just catch it on iPlayer, here:

Stephen Herbert

The Space Between Time

The Space Between Time, ABC Radio National, 10 May 2008 (Australia)

“This is a study of the man who made the movies possible – pioneer photographer Edward Muybridge who began taking large format photographs of iconic landscapes of the American West and then caught the eye of the railway pioneer Leland Standford who supported his innovations. Muybridge eventually created cameras (and film stock) that really did ‘stop time’ and his work still inspires young slo-mo video artists Shaun Gladwell and Daniel Crooks (who ‘slices’ time with software).

Radio Producer Tony Barrell also talks to Muybridge biographer Rebecca Solnit about his strange obsession, scandalous life and then asks astro-physicist Paul Davies if he thinks it’s possible that time could be made of particles – and if so, what’s in between? Presented by Brent Clough.”

This well crafted and interesting Australian radio programme was originallly broadcast around 2003, repeated in 2008, and is now available as a free Podcast here:

In full flow shortly after the publication of her book River of Shadows – the alternative title Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge is more appropriate here – Rebecca Solnit tells of the man who thought of himself as an artist, and went into science to make work for artists. Be perplexed by the conceptually mindblowing concepts of chronons (the elements of time), the aesthetics of slow motion, Zeno’s Paradox, quantum activity in empty space, skateboarding meditation, and not forgetting temporal grouting and time-slicing. All interspersed with and related to Eadweard Muybridge and his work, of course. Well worth the half-hour or so listening time.

(The image above, Eadweard J. Muybridge tribute,  is included on this post as I thought it chimed with the subject. So much Muybridge-related artwork on the web now. This can be seen in context here:
When you get there, look for picture title bottom right.)

Ronald Reagan, Muybridge and Stanford, and Death Valley Days

Ronald Reagan on the set of Death Valley days

“As the early morning  bugle call of the covered wagon train fades away among the echoes, another true Death Valley Days is presented by the famous Borax family of products….”

We haven’t heard much on this blog about Muybridge’s tv appearances – so here’s something new.

In 1964, the LA Times announced, “Reagan to Narrate ‘Death Valley Days’” – a popular tv show that had already been running for more than a decade, featuring stories from the Old West. [18 Oct 1964]. Director of the show was Reagan’s brother, Neil [South Florida Sun – Sentinel 13 Dec 1996]. In syndication the show was variously titled: Call of the West; The Pioneers; Trails West; and Western Star Theater.

The programme's sponsor - Borax

Do check out the commercial slot on Youtube:

Death Valley Days was invariably sponsored by Pacific Coast Borax Company, (later: U.S. Borax Company). Advertisements for the company’s best-known products, 20 Mule Team Borax, a laundry additive, Borateem detergent, and Boraxo powdered hand soap, were often done by the programme’s host. Death Valley was the scene of much of the company’s borax mining operations. Wikipedia says: “Death Valley Days is, judging from sheer number of episodes broadcast, by far the most successful syndicated television Western, the most successful television Western ever in the half-hour format, and arguably the most successful syndication of any genre in the history of the U.S. television market…”

The episode that interests us was entitled ‘The $25,000 Wager’ (1964). Season 13: Episode 10. Air Date: December 24th, 1964
[NOTE: an audio tape of the soundtrack sold on eBay recently, and this gave the date as 14 Feb 65, probably a syndication date.] In ‘The Bet That Created a Future Industry’, a recent item on the web [23 March 2008], a viewer remembered details of the plot and cast:

“….this episode [told of an event that] settled one of the great mysteries of the animal kingdom and created the name and reputation of one of America’s best remembered photographers – and began a thread that helped lead to the development of an industry now centered in California.

Hedley Mattingly played Muybridge

[British-born actor] Hedley Mattingly (later District Officer Hedley on Daktari) plays the photographer. He is at a local race course one day with his wife, a family acquaintance, and several important figures including California’s governor (it is 1873) Leland Stanford (Harry Holcombe). Stanford is watching his horse race a friend’s, and they start discussing the beauty of the animals, and the grace with which the horses go around the track.  Stanford wondered if the horses ever had all four hoofs off the ground at the same time. His friend [Charles Cropper played “MacCrellish”] says he did not think it was possible: horses require two of their legs to be on the ground at one point of time while the others rise. It is necessary for their balance. But Stanford felt it was possible. He had run, and occasionally both of his legs were off the ground. Why not a horse.

Leland Stanford was played by Harry Holcombe (The Minister in The Graduate)

But how to find out? It was decided after the wager on this problem ($25,000.00 – a big sum of money now but more so then) to have the photographer try to photograph a horse in gallop. He was appalled at this assignment, but agreed to do it. After all, Stanford was the Governor of California.

Diane Brewster played Flora.

Diane Brewster played Flora. Ironically, given the Flora/Muybridge age difference, this Photoplay cover asks: “Why do they marry older men?” (Diane Brewster played doomed wife Helen Kimble in The Fugitive tv series.)

The story follows the photographer’s experiments with cameras, and the false ends many ideas lead to. But there is a second story told (though from what I recall bowdlerized). The photographer’s wife Flora (Diane Brewster), was having an affair with a family acquaintance David Neal (Lew Brown). This comes to the photographer’s attention, and complicates his search for an answer to the question.

Lew Brown as 'David Neal'

Lew Brown played ‘David Neal’ – the name given to the ‘family acquaintance’ (in real life, Harry Larkyns).  (Lew Brown played Andy Coe in 21 episodes of Gunsmoke)

In the end the photographer set up cameras worked by trip wires all over the race course. Stanford’s horse ran down the course, and all the pictures were developed. And sure enough they showed the horse does have all four hoofs off the ground when the horse is galloping. Stanford won the bet.

To prove that the pictures were not doctored, the photographer created a machine that flicked their images on a screen in order to show the horse in gallop down the track. The device, a zoopraxiscope (I believe that is how it is spelled) was the world’s first motion picture camera [projector]. Stanford congratulates the photographer, who was Eadward [sic] Muybridge, and said he showed that pictures could be made to move.

The romance also was ended, but in the episode I don’t think they went into how it was ended. Muybridge is unique – he is remembered for his remarkable slow motion studies of men and animals, and he is recalled as one of the fathers of motion pictures (Edison, while working on his camera in the 1890s, met with Muybridge to check out his “rival” only to find that Muybridge had no further desire to develop motion pictures). But Muybridge is also one of the few actual killers honored by the U.S. Government by a postage stamp. You see, he killed his wife’s lover (as Congressman Daniel E. Sickels did in 1859). And like Sickels he was acquitted by the notorious “unwritten law” about killing adulterers threatening one’s marriage. That part I don’t recall was in the episode – Muybridge’s violent act occurred shortly after the bet was settled.

Aside from that odd postscript the episode kept to the story quite well. And it was memorable enough to remain on this viewer’s mind some forty years after seeing it.” [theowinthrop on IMDb]

On 4 April 1965 the Chicago Tribune reported: “Actor Reagan Sees a Happy Future … No one knows for sure what the future holds for Ronald Reagan, Illinois born actor, tv host, performer, and a battler for the freedoms intended us by the founders of this nation [it says here]. He may continue as host and sometime star of Death Valley Days, a series with emphasis on the American Heritage and dramatizing footnotes on American history…..[etc.]

Yeah, what did become of him?

Another reviewer explains why Reagan soon left the series:

“Because he announced his candidacy on January 1, 1966, Death Valley Days aired prior to – and during – Reagan’s gubernatorial run. His opponent (the sitting governor) felt that weekly TV exposure gave Reagan an unfair advantage. As a result, California stations were forced to drop the series to conform with equal time laws.” [‘Ronald Reagan on TV’ by Billy Ingram – See also: ‘Reagan Out as Host of Death Valley Days’, LA Times 10 January 1966]

So while telling the story of one Governor of California, Reagan was about to become another.

Sadly I have so far been unable to find any stills from the Muybridge-Stanford episode, but it definitely still exists – in fact, it’s available on DVD. The one tiny problem is that it’s part of a rather large DVD Box Set – all 558 episodes of the series (1952-1975). The set is sold by TV-DVD – though what kind of lifestyle would one have watching that lot (18 seasons, 46 DVDs) ?

I’ll settle for reading the plot given on :

“Two men make a $25,000 bet which leads a young photographer to create a new art form — the movies.”

The Compleat Eadweard Muybridge

This blog is but a whimsical trifle of random trivia compared with the vast and organized resources available on the main website, The Compleat Muybridge … which isn’t – of course – complete, but strives to be a comprehensive guide to all that is Muybridge and his work. Go to the main page, or pick and choose from the subjects below.

Animations of Muybridge plates from Animal Locomotion

Articles from the past century

Artworks, new (links) inspired by Muybridge’s work

Artworks, new (on COMPLEAT MUYBRIDGE site)

Biography from several sources

Blog 2007

Blog 2008

Blog 2009

Books Extensive bibliography, with covers

CDs (audio) – an opera even!

CD-rom early interactive

Chronology Select year range from Home Page, r/h panel.

Chronology-Lite (Main events)

Comicbooks featuring the man

Conferences (past) an illustrated list

Digital motion experiments and artworks (modern)

DVDs listed

Exhibitions (on COMPLEAT MUYBIDGE site)

Exhibitions (online links), Festivals and Awards

Film experiments and artworks (modern)

Links to many Muybridge-related subjects on the web

Memorials plaques, statues, and postage stamp.

Modern products – design portfolios, and for sale

Movies featuring Muybridge’s work

Murals (exterior)

Museum collections and exhibitions worldwide

Music – that opera again!

Online articles and reviews (links)

Paintings and drawings inspired by Muybridge’s sequence photography

Philately 1996 US Post Office issue

Photographic experiments and artworks (modern)

Photographs (EJM’s) List of formats/subjects, plus links

Portraits (studio photographs) of Muybridge

References (to sources used in the Chronology)

Screenplays – more to be added

Search The Compleat Muybridge

Texts (transcribed from news items)

Theatrical works worldwide

Then and now,  photographs (Central America)

Timeline – Muybridge, Photography, Moving images, Inventions, World Events

Videographic motion experiments and artworks (modern)

YouTube selected videos

Zoopraxiscope – the machine explained

Zoopraxiscope motion discs described

Go to main page and explore!