Galloping horses and – Le Prince

A young girl, a white horse

I’m back, after three years or so! Not Muybridge this time – but an intriguing possibility that ties in with the iconic images of galloping and trotting horses that mark the start of motion pictures – so I think it belongs here.

While working on David Wilkinson’s feature documentary The First Film (2015), researcher Irfan Shah became fascinated by its subject – the tragic film pioneer Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince. Irfan has continued digging through archives in search of those fragments of forgotten paperwork that when found, make all the hours of searching worthwhile.

Irfan has recently sent me material that reveals the possibility that Le Prince made a test film of a young girl leading a white horse around the garden of Oakwood Grange, Roundhay, Leeds – in 1887. So here’s the story, by the grandson of that young girl.

“24 November 2016

Hello Irfan,

My grandmother, Emmeline Calvert was born in Brazil on the 8th October 1876. Her father died there on the 10th June 1883 and the family herself, her elder brother Alfred and her mother Sarah Ann Whitley returned to England, arriving in Liverpool on the 31st Oct 1885. Sarah Ann Whitley had been estranged from the family because her father disapproved of her marriage but when she returned the family was reconciled and they often visited her brother Joseph and his wife Sarah at his house at Oakwood Grange. My grandmother told me the story, and it was reiterated to me later by my mother when I was older (my grandmother died when I was about 12) that on one occasion when she was there Augustin Louis le Prince asked her to walk a white horse around the drive on the front garden whilst he attempted to film it. I believe the area where it was filmed was the same as the section of film that survives showing the Whitley Family in their front garden and his son Adolph dancing with the accordion. Le Prince probably found this location ideal for filming because it was secure from any prying eyes trying to steal his invention and he therefore used it on probably many occasions. Also the filming of a horse moving was one of the  fascinations of early moving pictures. The film has probably been lost no doubt with a large majority of his experimental films. Attached is a photo of my grandmother at about the age of 12/13 when the filming would have been undertaken . The question of security may have been a factor in his filming of the traffic over Leeds Bridge as he took those pictures from the window of an upstairs room rather than outside in the open air where his invention was more open to any prying eyes.

I hope this helps

 Kind Regards

Geoff [Geoffrey North].”


Emmeline Calvert  (Photo courtesy Geoffrey North and Irfan Shah)

OK so not a galloping horse – that comes next!

If my memory holds good…..

This might tie in with a letter written in 1930, following newspaper publicity concerning the Le Prince-related activity in Leeds. Arthur Wood – an engineer of retirement age living in South Africa – wrote to the Mayor of Leeds concerning his involvement in 1888 with a projector being made for Le Prince by the firm of Whitley Partners, for whom Wood (then a 25-year-old) was working. Wood states: “I personally made the mechanical parts of the projector such as the pedestal, gears chains etc and was shown the film for which it was for. If my memory holds good this film was of a horse galloping although I did not see it actually projected…” [from: Career of L.A.A. Le Prince, by E. Kilburn Scott, SMPTE Journal July 1931.]

Irfan will be presenting the Emmeline Calvert material, and his conclusions concerning these two pieces and other aspects of Le Prince’s life and work, at a talk in Leeds to coincide with the Leeds Film Festival in November. There will also be a small exhibition.

9 rue Cadet, Paris

October, 2013. Paris is a black-and-white film. All of the cars, all of the motorbikes and scooters, are black, grey, or white. The people wear black, grey, or white.

The traffic no longer keeps up the continuous klaxon blaring that I remember so well (has there been a change in the law?) I am reminded of Maxim Gorky’s response to the first Lumière films, famously shown in this city in 1895:

“Last night I was in the Kingdom of Shadows. If you only knew how strange it is to be there. It is a world without sound, without colour. Every thing there—the earth, the trees, the people, the water and the air—is dipped in monotonous grey. Grey rays of the sun across the grey sky, grey eyes in grey faces … shadows of a bad engraving.”

Only the vibrant fruit and vegetables outside the shops give the city any colour, which has otherwise leached out of the streets.

I’m staying for several weeks in a studio flat on rue Lafayette, and one day I decide to walk two Metro stops to Cadet. Some years earlier, I had come across a tenuous but possible reference to a link with Eadweard Muybridge, and an address in rue Cadet. It’s a busy, interesting street, alive with lunchtime diners outside cafes, local traders, busy, busy….

Will number 9 still be the pre-1860s building? I have no idea what to expect. Suddenly there it is. If I had been sent to Paris for film location research, to find the spot to represent the 1860s Muybridge connection, here it is, and without much need of a period makeover. In the center of the wide building that is no. 9 there’s an archway, with big open wooden doors.

This 18th-century building is where Chopin gave his first recital in Paris, and was once the home of the gardener of Louis XV. Over the archway is an old sign: PHOTO INDUSTRIELLE. As I walk through the arch the decades peel away in union with the peeling paint on the walls, the scene becomes an Atget photograph of the grimy Paris that in recent times has largely disappeared.

Opposite the arch is a peak-roofed glass-sided greenhouse – or perhaps once a glasshouse studio?

Individual artisan workshops, mostly now storerooms, form the perimeter of the cobbled yard, one side of which is set up as an experimental urban garden. Local workers sit on benches beside the period streetlamps, reading Le Monde to while away their lunch break hour.

Here is the story, as it originally appeared on this blog in 2010.


In search of ‘Helios’

Onward away ! away his steeds,
Mad with the momentary pause,
Plunge through the scattered clouds !

Helios !

Richard Henry Horne
Prometheus the Fire-bringer (1864)

A few years ago, I noticed that the online catalog of the George Eastman House included an early address for Muybridge – in Paris. Could he really have been located in France in 1864?

Late Summer 1861 he wrote to his uncle that he was leaving for the continent “on business that may detain me some months.” On 3 December 1862 the Daily Alta California reported: ‘A letter from Paris of Oct. 24th says: There has been a great influx of Californians within the past few weeks. […] E.J. Muygridge was here a few days since, but has returned to London…’

I contacted George Eastman House.

Hello, I note that one of the addresses on your Bibliog file (online) for Eadweard Muybridge is:

France, Paris — 9 rue Cadet (1864)

This was the address of photographer M. Berthaud. I believe that Muybridge may indeed have been in Paris at this time, but there are no details in any of the biographical works that I have been able to find. Would it be possible to find out where this address came from? Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you, Stephen Herbert (Muybridge Consultant, Kingston Museum).

I received the following response:

Dear Mr. Herbert,
Yes, that does seem questionable. I do not have a way of supporting this Paris address and am inclined to delete it from our (new) database (not yet available to offsite research). As a compromise, I have moved it into 2nd place from 1st place in the record. Sorry to be so slow in responding and so unhelpful as well.

Joe R. Struble
Assistant Archivist

So that, I thought, was that. No way to check.

And then days ago, a private collector – finding the “Rue Cadet” address on my website during an internet search –  sent me this.

On the back of which, is this:


Yes, the trade name of  Mons. Berne-Bellecour in association with M. Berthaud was – ‘Helios’.

Around 1867, Michel Berthaud became associated with Etienne Berne-Bellecour (active in photography from 1864 to 1870 – was this E. Berne-Bellecour the painter?) who had already established the ‘Helios’ firm – we do not yet know exactly when. By 1867 Muybridge was back in  France, so unless Berne-Bellecour was using the name Helios in 1865-66, or earlier, our Muybridge connection disappears.

(After Bern-Bellecour’s departure in 1870 the firm continued under Berthaud, using the ‘Helios’ name for decades, and with many branches in the 1870s-80s.) [Eves Lebrec]

The possibilities seem almost endless – but here are three:

a) Muybridge worked in France for M. Berne-Bellacour’s company in the 1860s, which used the name Helios as an encompassing title to cover the photographs of more than one partner. This was where Muybridge developed his photographic skills, and accounts for why he isn’t found in the English press (including the photographic periodicals) at that time, and doesn’t seem to have been a member of any British photographic society. Somewhere there is evidence of this French connection, used by the GEH cataloguer.

b) Muybridge, who certainly visited Paris in the 1860s, noted the name Helios at M. Berne-Bellecour’s establishment, and adopted it for the same reason – a trade name would cover the published photographs of more than one photographer – which would tie in with Weston Naef’s suggestion.

c) Complete coincidence.

If (b) or (c), the GEH cataloguer must have noted the address on a dated French carte printed with the ‘Helios’ design, and aware that this was Muybridge’s trade name, made a leap of faith and assumed that he was working from that address at that time.

For a few moments I hoped that I would find an early use of Muybridge’s scratched ‘Helios’ with an acute accent (Hélios), a tiny Roland Barthes ‘punctum’ that would instantly prove a French connection, but as I peered fruitlessly at the various relevant photographs that hope gradually dissolved.

All of the above is circumstantial evidence at best, and proves nothing. But it certainly indicates that there are places to look in an attempt to find out what Muybridge was doing in Europe – including a possibility that he was already deeply involved in photography – in the ‘lost years’ of 1861-66. And if indeed he was involved in a photographic studio then a letter, or dusty ledger, or account book, or agreement  … some scrap that’s survived the century and a half between then and now, is out there waiting to be discovered, somewhere. Somewhere…. [end of blog post]


And there has been a photographic connection that continues – one of several photographic companies that was set up here in 1861 survived until 1995. There is still a photographic laboratory on one of the floors of the current occupier, the Département Histoire de l’Architecture et Archéologie de Paris & secrétariat de la Commission du Vieux.

But it’s all too easy to be seduced into weaving this location into Muybridge’s life. In reality, any connection is most likely a fantasy, based on one simple error – the assumption that the trade name ‘Helios’ on the back of a carte-de-visite indicated an association with Muybridge. Just a fantasy. But I’m glad I came here to no. 9 rue Cadet, Paris. I’m very glad I came. I sit on a bench and eat my cheese baguette.

‘Eadweard’ influenced by Vancouver theatre scene

IMG_1362Photo credit to follow

Josh Epstein is co-producer of the Canadian Muybridge movie, and here’s his blog on preparation for this week’s shooting…

“The last few weeks working on our EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE movie have been an absolute rollercoaster.   Navigating making our first feature has presented an astounding amount of challenges, from raising (and securing!) the money to budgeting an epic period film with children, animals, artistic nudity, 50 locations, 40 actors, 100 extras, 400 period costumes, over 50 1880′s specialized cameras, a top notch film crew, a compound build at one location, and doing all that on a low indie budget and there’s no getting around paying for trucks, gas, security, insurance, meals, equipment.  All things that don’t actually improve your film but are essential for making a film.  We knew we had to be involved in every department to make this happen…. [read more]

and some more here…

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Yosemite ‘mammoth’ prints on eBay

Two scarce Muybridge ‘mammoth’ prints of Yosemite Valley scenes are currently on eBay.

The Old Piute. Valley of the Yosemite. Buy it Now: US$14,500

Confluence of the Merced and Yosemite Creek. Buy it Now: US$18,000

Or, make an offer.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

A Muybridge cyanotype ‘film’

Muybridge was familiar with the Cyanotype photographic process and its delicious blue prints – he used the method for his proofs of the University of Pennsylvania movement studies – so it seems a very appropriate medium for the experiment carried out by 22/f/india – (Shreyasi Kar) a student of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore.

There’s a charming video of the result on Vimeo:

To read the full story, go to Shreyasi’s blog.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Scientific Movement on Luminous Lint

A selection of 54 images concerning scientific movement, each one meticulously captioned, has been posted by Alan Griffiths on his Luminous Lint website:

Scientific Movement

The study of movement through a sequence of successive still photographs was the foundation of cinema. It is a strange coincidence that two of the photographers whose research on the movement of animals and humans were born and died in the same years – Étienne Jules Marey ( 1830-1904) in France and Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) in the UK. Their innovations of multiple cameras, multiple images on single plates and improved shutters had enormous implications for physiology, medicine, sports and art where animal movement could now be shown with scientific accuracy for the first time. There were other scientists who should not be overlooked Ottomar Anschütz (1846-1907), Arthur Clive Banfield (1875-1965), Prof. A.M. Worthington, Ernst Mach, the Bragaglia brothers in Italy, the researchers into efficient workflows Frank B. and Lillian Gilbreth and Harold E. Edgerton (1903-1990) whose mastery of the stroboscopic flash captured multiple moments on a single frame.

Although the majority of the photographs in this exhibition created were for scientific purposes the influence they had on the art world was enormous. Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) saw the implications early on and without their inspirational images Marcel Duchamp’s oil painting Nude Descending a Staircase (1912) could not have been created. That work itself led to Eliot Eliofson’s wonderful photograph for Life Magazine (1952) of Duchamp descending a staircase.

This fine selection of 19th and 20th-century work serves as a good introduction to the variety of images produced by various chronophotographic methods.

Luminous Lint is a massive and impressively well organised website ‘for Collectors and Connoisseurs of Fine Photography’, featuring more than 6,000 photographers and over 28,000 images.

Don’t forget to visit The Compleat Eadweard Muybridge

Symposium: ‘Eadweard Muybridge: Re-presenting History in the Digital Age’

Hosted by the British Film Institute, Southbank 21st May 2010, NFT2, 2.00 – 5.30pm
Location:    United Kingdom
Symposium Date:    2010-05-21

From Kingston University and Kingston Museum:

In the year of a major Muybridge retrospective opening at Tate Britain, join us for this innovative symposium: the culmination of a unique Arts and Humanities Research Council project between Kingston University and Kingston Museum which concerns Muybridge’s work.
The Muybridge project has produced an online research resource which draws together information on all collections of Muybridge’s work worldwide as well as providing an academic and historical context for them. Our symposium will critically reflect on some of the crucial cultural and aesthetic questions to have arisen from this contemporary heritage project. Three talks will explore representation and the body within photography, the ideological meaning of space and place within cultural communication, and the contemporary trend towards digitization in heritage projects. A guided discussion with questions from the audience will follow, with a reception to finish.
Talks will be given respectively by Dr Harriet Riches: Senior Lecturer in Art History & Visual Culture at Kingston University. Professor Tim Cresswell, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Geography Royal Holloway, University of London and Louise Shannon, Curator, Deputy Head of Contemporary Programmes Victoria and Albert Museum and co-curator of ‘Decode’.
There is no charge for this event.
To reserve a place please telephone Emerald Day: 020 8 417 7416 (Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, Kingston University)

From: H-Net

(Posted here by Stephen Herbert)

Time has transformed into furniture

Muybridge Chair: “Time has transformed into furniture”

The following is from an exclusive interview with Dutch designer Richard Hutten, published in Design, (Events, Profile), on 12 June 2008 by Shweta Parida. [Reproduced here by kind permission]

(And yes, we’re a couple of years late catching up with this, but I thought it was worth a blog post.)

“Des51gn speaks to famous Dutch designer Richard Hutten at the launch of his latest collection Atomes d’Argent for French luxury brand Christofle Paris.”

Muybridge Chair, from the 'Layers' collection

Muybridge is a chair named after the pioneer of photography Eadweard Muybridge.

“Being a passionate photographer myself, I had a series of pictures taken of me in profile while I got up from a seated position and had this one single movement captured in 53 shots, according to the technique devised by Muybridge. The pictures were then enlarged and laser-cut in MDF slabs that were glued to each other in the order in which they were taken. Thus a chair was created, in which one literally sits on my lap! The upper legs are the seat, while the torso is the back, and the movement of raising the body also creates an armrest. Time has transformed into furniture.”

DE51GN is an international ezine that brings you the must-know in contemporary design, art, architecture and cutting-edge fashion with a special focus on the Middle East and Asia.

Richard Hutten

Watch the YouTube video here

What is  Muy Blog?