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 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

Rats!

Phenakistiscope disc, pre-Muybridge

On the 8th December 1890 some residents of Gloucester received a more realistic experience of animals in motion than perhaps they were expecting, as the Gloucester Citizen reported the next day:

‘GLOUCESTER LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC ASSOCIATION. [last evening] … the Corn Exchange was crowded, the attraction being a lecture by Mr. Eadweard Muybridge on ‘The Science of Animal Locomotion in its Relation to Design in Art.’ … There followed a description of the lecture, and finally….

‘One other word. The corporation ought really to keep their rats in better order than to allow them to career about the Corn Exchange on public occasions. The appearance of these rodents (whom a long succession of corn markets seems to have rendered enterprising to a most impudent and unpleasant degree) upon the screen last night would have been appropriate, and they might have served a useful purpose as illustrations of Mr. Muybridge’s points; but their practical demonstrations on the floor of the laws of animal locomotion – whatever relation it may have borne to their design and art – not only proved somewhat terrifying to ladies in the audience, but distracted attention from the lecturer and his subject. In the zoopraxiscope they would have been tolerable, even amusing and instructive; dodging among chair and other legs they constituted a nuisance and a cause of legitimate complaint.’

Reports of several lectures previously unrecorded in the Muybridge biographies and my own chronology have recently turned up, including:
27 January 1890, Lecture at Grantham.

28 January 1890 report on lecture, Nottingham Evening Post. LECTURE AT GRANTHAM ‘Last night, in connection with local science and art lcasses, a lecture was given in the Theatre, Grantham… “The Movements of Animals.”  ‘…Mr. Muybridge’s reputation had preceded him, as evidenced by the large audience then present.’

23 July 1890 (Weds) Burnley Express ‘The Directors of the Burnley Mechanics’ Institute are making arrangements for the usual series of lectures … an address will be given by Mr. Muybridge….’

4 October 1890 (Sat) Burnley Express, Advert: ‘Lectures for the People’ (Assembly Room). List includes : ‘Thursday Dec. 4th “Animal Locomotion in its relation to design in Art,” Professor EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE. Illustrated synthetically with the Zoopraxiscope.’

6 October 1890 (Mon) Gloucester Citizen, Gloucester Literary and Scientific Association advert. ‘Engagements are pending with the following and other lecturers… MR. EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE – “The Science of Animal Locomotion,” illustrated by the zoopraxis-cope….’

23 October 1890 (Thurs) Gloucester Citizen, Gloucester Literary and Scientific Association advert. ‘The Committee have the pleasure to announce ….. Thursday, December 11th, MR. EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE – “The Science of Animal Locomotion,”…’

6 December 1890 (Sat) Burnley Express p.5 ‘HOW MEN AND WOMEN WALK. ARTISTIC FALLACIES EXPOSED. At the Burnley Mechanics’ Institutution, on Thursday evening, the last of the series of  “lectures for the people” was given by Professor Eadweard Muybridge, of the University of Pennyslvania, U.S.A., to a large gathering…’ (Dr. Brumwall presided.) ‘…the lecturer was an original investigator, who had used in one summer alone 50,000 photographic plates…’

More will no doubt come to light this year, as I search the millions of pages now being digitised and made available online by the British Library. (Free at St Pancras, otherwise paid access, for a very reasonable range of fees.)

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

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

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)

News and Events roundup, February 2011

The lack of posts on this blog recently is certainly not due to a reduction in Muybridge activity. Other pressures have kept me away, so today a quick roundup of some recent happenings.

Roundtable Discussion: Cinema as a Paradigm Shift in Vision

Thursday 27 January.
Speakers from the Muybridge in Kingston programme returned for a group discussion examining how Muybridge’s work formed part of a wider 19th Century shift in vision as a way of understanding the world. We were gathered together within the exhibition space, around us the glowing images of wall-mounted zoopraxiscope discs and lantern slides. Speakers were Dr. Pasi Valiaho, Prof. Esther Leslie, Deac Rossell and Professor Stephen Barber. As Chair of the event (significantly assisted by Alexandra Reynolds) I certainly enjoyed the evening, and judging by the quality of responses from the audience, they did too. Marek Pytel, master animator of Muybridge images, later remarked: “Sitting, talking about perhaps an end of cinema, while surrounded by the very artifacts of its projected beginnings was actually quite moving. Sometimes one takes these things for granted – and one shouldn’t.”

Other events held at Kingston between September 2010 and January 2011 are detailed on the Muybridge in Kingston website.
http://www.muybridgeinkingston.com/event.php

Muybridge workshops

Rich Bunce gives us a taser of the work of his students at one of the recent Muybridge-related workshops:
http://www.richbunce.com/blog/tag/muybridge/

(c) Rich Bunce

Last Muybridge Workshop

Friday, February 25th, 2011

“This week I completed the last of the Muybridge workshops, which have formed part of the education programme at Kingston Museum; run in conjunction with the  Exhibitions on Muybridge’s work at both the Museum and Tate Britain.

The workshops have been great and really enjoyable to run to do which is always a bonus! Here are some highlights from the work…”

Click on the title above to see the work animated on Rich’s website.

Helios opens in San Francisco

Muybridge is back in San Francisco in a big way, starting on Saturday, as the Helios exhibition opened.
SFMOMA Showcases Exhibition: Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change

http://www.artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=45299

This first  review questions whether the exhibition should have grasped the thorny subject of attribution:

Photograph of Yosemite Valley from the 'Helios' exhibition

‘Helios: Muybridge in a Time of Change’ review
Kenneth Baker, Chronicle Art Critic
San Francisco Chronicle February 26, 2011 04:00 AM Copyright San Francisco Chronicle.  (Section reproduce here for purposes of review.) Saturday, February 26, 2011

‘…Weston Naef, , a ranking expert on Muybridge’s contemporary E. Carleton Watkins (1829-1916), argues that Muybridge bought the rights to negatives made by others, including Watkins, to market many of the pictures issued under his own name, or under his short-lived commercial moniker, Helios. That Watkins and Muybridge would have connected in the small 19th century world of San Francisco photography seems certain.

The organizer of “Helios,” Corcoran chief curator Philip Brookman, answered Naef’s suspicions by pointing out that some Muybridge landscapes from the period in question include darkroom manipulations, such as the addition of clouds from separate negatives, that appear nowhere in Watkins’ work.

Clearly, over time Muybridge did master the techniques of wet collodion photography and cultivated his own vision of landscape, of history inscribing itself on his time and of his medium’s potential for scientific scrutiny.

Incorporation of the controversy into the SFMOMA presentation – admittedly no small task – might have enriched it. But there is plenty to occupy the eye and mind in the show as it comes.

Muybridge’s innovations went to the brink of cinema, paving the way for the regime of kinetic imagery under which the whole world lives today.

Dwelling in the image world that Muybridge helped create, we inevitably view his work with the slant provided by the famous studies in “Animal Locomotion” first commissioned by railroad baron and university founder Leland Stanford.

“Helios” gathers those sequential pictures – which evidence a bizarre clinical curiosity as well as technical genius on Muybridge’s part – in a depth never seen in an exhibition before.

SFMOMA has appended a small contextualizing roomful of late 19th century American pictures from its own stellar photography collection. But visitors who remember the engrossing 2003 exhibition “Time Stands Still: Eadweard Muybridge and the Instantaneous Photography Movement” at Stanford will wish for more in the way of historical framing.’

Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change: Photographs, books and ephemera. Through June 7. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St., San Francisco. (415) 357-4000. http://www.sfmoma.org.
E-mail Kenneth Baker at kennethbaker@sfchronicle.com.
This article appeared on page E – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/02/25/DDGE1HT66F.DTL#ixzz1F9b9MxDP

New animated film completed

Previously mentioned on Muy Blog, a new animation has now been finished  – as reported in asahi.com news

http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201102220290.html

ANIME NEWS: Director Yamamura completes new short at Canada’s NFB.
by ATSUSHI  OHARA
2011/ 02/23

Muybridge's Strings

(c) 2011 National Film Board of Canada/NHK/Polygon Pictures

Animation artist Koji Yamamura (Mt. Head and Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor) has completed his long-awaited animated short, Muybridge’s Strings, in a coproduction with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and others.

Yamamura took seven years to finish the 12-minute short, slated for release this year….

“I aspired to become an animation creator after seeing NFB works when I was a university student,” Yamamura said. “I had always dreamed of making animated works at the NFB.”

Muybridge’s Strings follows the life of groundbreaking British photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)…..Yamamura’s animated short also includes a parallel story about a girl growing up in modern Tokyo. The film’s score includes J.S. Bach’s “Crab Canon.”

“I wanted to draw ‘time’ in a documentary style with a poetic manner,” Yamamura said. “I wanted to capture moments of connection of the two stories that seem related to each other at one point, yet detached at another.”

The director said he came up with the idea immediately after completing Mt. Head in 2002. Yamamura sounded out the NFB for a possible collaboration through an animation creator he met at a French film festival. Later, Yamamura found a producer who was interested in his works and willing to join forces with him.

Yamamura looked for financiers from Japan while he worked on Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor. He began full-scale work on Muybridge’s Strings after gaining consent from Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) and CG animation studio Polygon Pictures Inc. as co-producers.

Yamamura spent about two years in Japan drawing key sketches for the project. Later, he spent five weeks in a wintry Montreal, where the NFB is located, late last year for editing, sound effects and other production work….

Yamamura is the first Japanese director to produce an animation at the NFB.

“(At the NFB), everyone from legendary masters to artists younger than myself is spending a great deal of time working on projects. It is like a school, with each artist interacting with one another.

“Their artistic creativeness is highly respected, but that doesn’t mean they can make whatever they want. I felt they all had a sense that they were doing their jobs ‘for the sake of animation art.'”

Many artists at the NFB, Yamamura added, spend several years making a short film, just as Yamamura did.

“It would be great for artists dedicated to animated shorts to make 10 or so good ones in their lifetime. You can’t create it if you don’t offer your life to it,” Yamamura enthused.

Yamamura had trouble finding sponsors for the project, which put the production on hold. But even so, he said, that was not a waste of time.

“If everything had gone easily and I finished my film in three years, it might have turned out different from what it is now. You can’t get to the bottom of your work if you don’t go through trial and error and have time to think,” Yamamura said.

“Thanks to advancements in personal computers and other devices, we have more convenient tools. But you have to give much thought to each frame and make it with your own hands. It takes time.” ATSUSHI  OHARA

 

 

 

 

Eadweard Muybridge Online Archive

A newish website that tags itself ‘Muybridge’s Home’ launched this month:

“We officially launched on February 14, 2011 and are in the process of processing and uploading all eleven volumes of “Animal Locomotion.” We hope to have them all up soon.”

“Welcome to the Eadweard Muybridge Online Archive. Here you will find images from Eadweard Muybridge’s seminal work Animal Locomotion, photographed from the original 1887 publication with the kind support of the Boston Public Library and its extraordinary Rare Books Department. These extremely high resolution images are presented copyright free and ready for download.

Dave Gordon, Curator”
http://www.enlightenedmonkey.net
http://www.muybridge.org/

February News Roundup posted here by Stephen Herbert
http://fada.kingston.ac.uk/staff/stephen_herbert/stephen_herbert.php