{ California Historical Society } photographs on view

The California Historical Society has always been important to Muybridge researchers. The CHS published new research before the first biographies, in articles such as ‘Eadweard Muybridge’s Yosemite Valley Photographs, 1867-1872’ by Mary V. Jessup Hood and Robert Bartlett Haas, (The California Historical Society Quarterly, March 1963.) A recent blog posting gives details of items currently on loan to Muybridge exhibitions.

Stereoview, 'Watch Tower', CHS Collection

“In June 2009, CHS was invited by the Corcoran to lend fifteen works by Muybridge plus an additional photo album from its permanent collection for the exhibition, Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change. Organized by the Corcoran’s chief curator, Philip Brookman, this first major retrospective of over 300 items from thirty-six lenders examines Muybridge’s career and extensive pioneering work in areas such as The Geology of Time: Yosemite and the High Sierra; War, Murder, and the Production of Coffee: the Modoc Wars and the Development of Central America; Motion Pictures: the Zoopraxiscope; and Animal Locomotion.

CHS stereo card with the classic image of Contemplation Rock, Glacier Point, 1871, was chosen as one of two images selected to illustrate Muybridge’s work in the Washington Post review of the exhibition, on view this last spring and early summer at the Corcoran Gallery. Three small works from CHS group were shipped to the exhibition’s second venue at the Tate Gallery [Tate Britain] in London and are currently on view there. The Helios exhibition will travel to its last venue, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, [early in 2011] for fourteen weeks of viewing. We hope you will visit Helios at SFMOMA, and visit CHS where more works by Muybridge from our permanent collection will also be on view during that time. More works by Muybridge are available for viewing in our North Baker Research Library, where we welcome visitors from around the world.

Cheryl Maslin, CHS Registrar/Collections Manager.”


The current CHS headquarters at 678 Mission Street accommodates the administrative offices, North Baker Research Library and the exhibition galleries. Galleries are open to the public from 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. The California Historical Society has over 3,100 dedicated members. The Society publishes “California History”, a quarterly journal and keeps an active public program schedule, including exhibitions, lectures, book talks and other events. The Society holds one of the richest collections of primary and secondary materials in the state on the social, cultural, economic, and political development of California. The North Baker Research Library provides public access to the collection, Wednesday through Friday, 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. questions or comments: californiahistoricalsociety@gmail.com

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Muybridge and the Science of Biomechanics

An illustration of the Glass Cage, from Charles Ducroquet’s Walking and Limping: A Study of Normal and Pathological Walking (JB Lipincott Co. 1965)

Biomechanics has taken many long strides since Muybridge’s pioneering photography, which does not always receive the scientific credit that it deserves.

The important scientific nature of Muybridge’s work is often misrepresented and sometimes totally dismissed. Although the scientific aspects were to some degree supervised at the University of Pennyslvania, his work for Stanford at Palo Alto (despite the later involvement of Dr. Stillman) was not. And it was here that Muybridge’s first significant scientific work was undertaken and successfully achieved.

Much has been made in recent writings about the grids used at Pennsylvania, dismissing them as ‘unscientific’ – and unsupportable statements made that his use of multiple cameras was ‘unscientific’ compared with the use of a single-lens camera by Marey, today’s writers making statements apparently based on the subjective writings and comments of Muybridge’s contemporaries. We shall be examining these subjects in later blog postings.

In the meantime, it’s good to see that the Helios exhibition in Washington has attracted some attention from modern practitioners of biomedical science, such as the following, extracted from the blog of prominent sports podiatrist Stephen Pribut.

Muybridge: Art, Motion and Biomechanics
by pribut on August 3, 2010

“An exhibition titled ‘Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change’  at the Corcoran displaying Muybridge’s groundbreaking photography and motion studies has just concluded. I had the joy of spending a few hours at the exhibit in close study…

Artists and scientists have long had an interest in human anatomy and motion. Over the last 50 years, movement and gait have been analyzed using gait plates, computer force distribution systems, electromyogram (EMG) and video. When, where and how did modern analytic methods develop? What was their antecedent? Most textbooks and articles are skimpy at best about much of the early history of the study of locomotion and movement.

The science of  biomechanics has forgotten about the 19th century developments that made for rapid progress in the last 100 years. The historical memories of biomechanics seem to start in the 20th century with Morton’s observations, and Elftman, Inman and Mann’s theories. [1] Artists, however, remember Muybridge,  and going further back, it is clear that Michelangelo was deeply interested in anatomy and Leonardo (performed dissections and) wanted to know how everything worked. Along the way to the present, many other artists and scientists studied and observed animal and human movement. But until the late 19th century there was no technology available to capture data and information of movement.

Eadweard Muybridge  (1830-1904) was the first to systematically develop equipment and techniques to photograph the movement of quadripedal and bipedal gait along with a variety of other movements, motions, and human athletic activities…. both the methodical study of movement and a film industry had their beginnings with the work of Muybridge.

Muybridge’s work has often been discounted as merely “art”, but it was an important qualitative look at movement. Diagrams in modern texts detailing varieties of normal and abnormal gait look like they were sketched from his plates or photographed using methods similar to his… Clearly there is inspiration, emotion, and art in his work, but using the scientific analysis and invention he was at the forefront in creating techniques that were later used to quantify motion and gait analysis. Look for more details on Muybridge on my main website in the near future.”

[1. The following note, brief details of some of the work of the researchers mentioned by Dr. Pribut, has been added by Stephen Herbert]

Herbert Elftman, Department of Anatomy, Columbia University, New York, N. Y. – ‘Body Dynamics and Dynamic Anthropometry’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 63 Issue Dynamic Anthropometry, Pages 553 – 558 (1955). Published Online: 15 Dec 2006  http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119778681/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

Verne Thompson Inman, Human Walking. (Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore: London 1981). Inman, VT, Ralston, HJ, and Todd, Frank .  http://www.univie.ac.at/cga/history/ww2.html

Roger A. Mann, M.D. and John Hagy, O.R.E.
‘Biomechanics of walking, running, and sprinting’, American Journal of Sports Medicine, September 1980 vol. 8 no. 5 345-350

Sports Podiatrist, Stephen Pribut, D.P.M. hosts one of the first sports medicine injury websites, which has been online since 1995. The site focuses primarily on Running Injuries. Dr. Pribut is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery and faculty member of the George Washington University Medical School. Dr. Pribut’s sports podiatric medicine practice is located in Washington, DC. He is a past president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine.

Stephen Pribut was the Chief Internet Engineer of the American Podiatric Medical Association and responsible for all aspects of the APMA’s Internet undertakings including online continuing medical education, web design, usability, information architecture, streaming media, and server installation and maintenance on multiple platforms. His early interest in the Internet for communication, information transfer, and knowledge based services continues with both the traditional web and Web 2.0 Social Media. Dr. Pribut has written and lectured on a variety of articles on athletic injuries, and biomechanics, and lectures both locally and nationally. He has published extensively on both medical and Internet related topics.

Professional memberships include the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).


A note on the illustration used at the top of this blog post:

Charles Ducroquet, a Paris physician, spent the better part of his life studying limping. He took films in the open air, processing them himself, while the patient waited. Later, he inspired his sons to continue the work, culminating in the book Walking and Limping: A study of Normal and Pathological Walking (JB Lipincott Co. 1965).

See also: The Science of Walking and Running


Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Muybridge ‘undercut the horse’s essential horseness’

From The Chronicle of Higher Education (online) comes this:

June 27, 2010
Eadweard Muybridge, Thief of Animal Souls

By Randy Malamud

“….my research in anthrozoology (human-animal studies) draws me primarily to Muybridge’s animals, and inclines me to be suspicious of both his perspective and his motives in capturing these creatures’ animating force. If Muybridge’s contextualization of his human models reifies the prevailing notions of gender, his animal studies even more profoundly perpetuate the anthropocentric prejudice that other animals exist to serve our own higher purposes.

Some American Indians believe that to take someone’s image involves actual usurpation of the living spirit.

But do these images displace the actual movement of the actual horse? Have we taken motion from the animal? Having penetrated the animal’s secret, its force of speed, do we exert some kind of control over it? The animals are curiously reduced, caught in the mechanics, the physics, of photography. They are composed not of flesh and blood and hair, but of silver albumen and paper. There were so many of them in the Corcoran Gallery that I couldn’t really see them at all. I certainly couldn’t hear them, or smell them, or feel (as I do in proximity to a real horse) awesomely dwarfed by them. Broken down by Muybridge and his apparatus, they don’t do anything but run, and run. Their force and motion no longer seem their own, but Muybridge’s, and ours. Something of their wildness has been trapped, isolated, and abrogated. Although the human viewers learn much more about the horses, I believe the horses themselves lose something in this transaction.

…..representations that imaginatively or literally rip animals out of their worlds and resituate them as subalterns, or fetishes, or “resources” in our world spell trouble for our fellow species. Muybridge’s complicity in his era’s expansionist and industrial fantasies means, in my judgment, that his photography was ultimately destructive to the animals he so keenly observed. In seeing a horse as a vehicle to make railroads more palatable, he undercut the horse’s essential horseness.”

Randy Malamud is a professor of English at Georgia State University. He is author of Reading Zoos: Representations of Animals and Captivity (New York University Press, 1998) and Poetic Animals and Animal Souls (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), and editor of A Cultural History of Animals in the Modern Age (Berg, 2007).

The Comments are interesting.

hanoch – June 28, 2010 at 09:48 am

“I found the premise of this essay ridiculous and fantastical….. Mr. Malamud has taken Muybridge out of his context….

I think it’s an unjustified stretch to make the taking of a photograph as the stealing of the essence of horses or or of other beings. We still have horses and very often in our lives have the pleasure of seeing them in real life, riding them, grooming them, and nurturing them. In all their physicality and in emotional and caring relationship to them. Do we reduce our family members by taking their pictures? Is looking at the picture of our deceased mothers and fathers, their pictures our legacy of them, a reduction of them or an abuse of them? What foolishness!”

mottgreene – June 28, 2010 at 10:44 am

“I understand the desire pour épater le bourgeois, but one wonders if the author was engaged in a self parody .. the anthropology – stolen souls – is a part of urban legends, not amerindian ethnography … ‘The assertion of fear of soul stealing was actually an imperial legend helping to describe the childishness of primitives to justify conquest.'”

fputnam – June 28, 2010 at 12:02 pm

“@mottgreene: I agree -this must be a parody, although (I fear that) its prominence in the Chronicle suggests not.”

princeton67 – June 28, 2010 at 08:53 pm

“Ah! Retroactive morality – combining the 20-20 vision of hindsight with an anachronistic morality to damn the dead.”

The article is well written and covers a lot of ground – worth reading, part-parody or not.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

The newest Eadweard Muybridge mystery

Weston Naef. (Tyler Green photo)

On ‘Modern Art Notes’, the important art blog by Tyler Green, is an introduction to what promises to be a controversial suggestion by influential curator of photography Weston J. Naef that Muybridge purchased many of his early photographic negatives, including many which he then inscribed ‘Helios’, from Carleton Watkins.

Essentially, Naef argues that Muybridge couldn’t have been a sufficiently competent photographer, in the late 1860s, to photograph some of the exceptional works – especially the Yosemite subjects – that are attributed to him.

Central to this suggestion is the lack of evidence of any photographic activity by Muybridge in England in the 1860s, before he returned to the USA – apparently having mastered the process. But of course absence of proof isn’t proof of absence, and in fact there are some (admittedly tenuous) pieces of ‘evidence’ – echoes of a suggestion that Muybridge had learned the art from Kingston’s Beadle (a Mr Brown, who certainly practiced photography commercially).

Weston Naef also uses the information that I discovered about Muybridge’s entrepreneurial activities in the 60s – with the failed Bank of Turkey, and a failed silver mine – to build a gradually evolving picture of the man as a serial entrepreneur, who ‘bought up’ rather than invented the clothes-washing machine, and printing method, that he dabbled with in the early 60s. And then bought up photographs by Watkins, and marked them “Helios”.

There are, of course, other possibilities. This isn’t a new subject, and it has been argued both ways. Back in the 1970s, James E. Ayers noted in a brochure to accompany an exhibition of Muybridge’s work: : ‘[earlier] photographs of the Yosemite Valley, credited to [Carleton E.] Watkins, could possibly have been ‘ghosted’ by Muybridge.’

The fuss is attracting bloggers to create posts with such titles as “Did the Corcoran Fall for an Eadweard Muybridge Scam?

Tyler Green reports on Modern Art Notes:

Naef’s catalogue raisonne of Watkins’ large-format pictures, titled “Carleton Watkins: The Complete Mammoth Photographs,” is scheduled for publication in 2011 by Getty Publications. Naef’s examinations could lead to a re-consideration of early American photographic history and a new understanding of how the iconography of the American West was made, presented, sold and distributed. The emergent Muybridge debate also provides an opportunity to see both art and American history as its being determined and debated, a real-life art history mystery-in-progress.

“I think that it’s in part the stereographs that would seem to be most open to reattribution,” Naef told MAN. “The half-plates I think show great potential [for same] and those pix that are on the mounts of Thomas Houseworth & Co. that have been attributed to Muybridge have to be reconsidered, I think.”

At this stage it’s all supposition of course, but this new interest in Muybridge’s early photographic activities, and questions about the attribution of certain photographs, will perhaps lead to new facts being discovered. More on this soon.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

HELIOS arrives!

HELIOS Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change, Philip Brookman.

The book was delivered yesterday. It looks magnificent – with a different dust jacket from that originally shown in pre-publication publicity – and at 360 pages will take a while to absorb. Now I regret more than ever not being able to get to see the exhibition in Washington (which includes exhibits that won’t make it across to Tate Britain), but this publication is a wonderful permanent record. More about the book (lots more) soon.

Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change (Hardcover)
Philip Brookman, with contributions by, Marta Braun, Corey Keller, Rebecca Solnit, Andy Grundberg.

See a brief introduction to Muybridge by Philip Brookman on Vimeo:

and a longer piece with Brookman, The pioneer of photography, on BBC World News America here:

Keeping up with developments – exhibitions, publications, symposiums, websites, artworks, videos, (even) songs – is proving to be quite a task at the moment, and the momentum is likely to be maintained throughout the summer and into the autumn. As my friend Luke McKernan has observed, this truly is The Year of Muybridge.

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?

Zoopraxiscope – Leaving on a Jet Plane

Peta Cook with Zoopraxiscope lens

Kingston Curator leaves for Washington today. Latest News from the Royal Borough of Kingston website:

Kingston Museum’s most famous artefact is being flown across the Atlantic as it returns to its country of origin for the first time in more than 100 years.

Created by Eadward Muybridge in 1879 the zoopraxiscope is considered to be the first ever moving image projector. Although built in the United States, where Muybridge spent much of his working life, the Zoopraxiscope, along with nearly 3,000 other items were bequeathed to Kingston Museum when he died.

This fascinating device is now being transported to the Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC, for a major exhibition on the photography pioneer’s work.

Peta Cook, Curator of Kingston Museum, will be flying to Washington to ensure that the valuable artefact not only arrives safely but is re-assembled correctly.

She said:

“A lot of Muybridge’s ground breaking work took place in the United States so a lot of people do not realise that he was born, and died, in Kingston Upon Thames. I am extremely proud to be part of this momentous occasion, overseeing the return, albeit temporarily, of this historic device to its original home for the first time in more than a century.”

Eadweard Muybridge was born in Kingston upon Thames in 1830 but moved away to America in 1852.  He came back to live in Kingston in the 1890s and when he died in 1904 he bequeathed his equipment and prints to Kingston Museum.

Peta said:

“This historic journey marks the start of an exciting year for Kingston Museum and Muybridge. While we are excited to be lending the Zoopraxiscope to the US, British fans will not have to wait long for its return as the exhibition will be coming to the Tate Britain in September … with the Zoopraxiscope and other items on loan to the Tate, it has given us the opportunity to exhibit parts of Muybridge’s collection that have not been since the 1890s.”

Philip Brookman, Chief Curator and Head of Research at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, said:

“The importance of the Eadweard Muybridge collections at the Kingston Museum should not be underestimated. This is one of the most significant collections of Muybridge’s art and related materials in the world. The various materials left to the Borough of Kingston by Muybridge at the end of his life together help paint an intricate and personal picture of Muybridge and his art. This collection has immense value as a reference for study and as an inspiration for artists, scientists, cultural theorists, and the general public.”


See also:


Exhibitions will Project Moving Image Maestro’s Work

He was a pioneer of the moving image, a celebrated landscape photographer and innovative photographic artist. The many achievements of Eadweard Muybridge will be lauded this year on both sides of the Atlantic – in Washington DC and at Tate Britain in London.

But a truly unique element of his work will also be marked in the more modest surroundings of his home-town of Kingston upon Thames where a special exhibition, Muybridge Revolutions will be mounted, thanks to a £49,700 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Muybridge, who was born in the town in 1830 and died there in 1904, bequeathed nearly 3,000 objects to the local museum providing it with one of the world’s most important historic collections of pre-cinema moving image artefacts….

Starting in April, a major exhibition looking at all aspects of his work will open at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington. This will transfer to Tate Britain in early September. The exhibition will contain a number of items lent by Kingston Museum but, at the same time, Kingston will open its own exhibition featuring a number of items that have never before been on public display. There will also be a complementary show at Kingston University’s Stanley Picker Gallery including work produced by contemporary artists who have been given special access to the collection.

Commenting for the Heritage Lottery Fund, Head of HLF London Sue Bowers said:

“As cinema is now exploiting the potential of digitally-enhanced and computer-generated imagery as never before, there is certain to be renewed interest in Muybridge. People will have not one but two exhibitions in London [plus the Stanley Picker Gallery exhibition] so as to learn even more of this pioneer’s amazing achievements.”

As well as developing the stop-motion photographic process, Muybridge also invented the zoopraxiscope, one of the first ever machines capable of projecting a moving image. It worked by using specially-designed glass picture discs derived from his original photographic sequences. Only 70 such discs are known to exist in the world and 67 of these are in the possession of Kingston Museum, many of which will be on display during the exhibition. The Museum also holds thousands of the inventor’s ‘magic lantern’ slides which supported his world-wide lecture tours.

Kingston Museum will launch a new schools resource pack, a series of workshops and a programme of academic lectures inspired by Muybridge’s work. The grant will also enable the museum to conserve parts of its collection as well as making more items viewable both online and in the exhibition.

Museum curator Peta Cook said:

“As Eadweard Muybridge’s enduring artistic legacy continues to be a source of inspiration for international artists, scientists and cultural theorists we wish to take this opportunity to put Muybridge, and specifically the Kingston collection, back onto the global stage. Muybridge was an exciting character whose work never fails to intrigue. He was an innovator, pioneering photographic explorer and entrepreneur who, in many different ways, changed the way his audience viewed the world.

Forming a significant part of a major development project around the Muybridge material at Kingston, this exhibition represents a pivotal point in the Museum’s on-going work to secure an exciting future for this world-class collection.”

Derek Osbourne, leader of Kingston Council, said:

“We are delighted to be sharing these wonderful exhibits with Tate Britain and farther afield in Washington. Not only are they an important part of Kingston’s heritage but also play an integral role in the development of photography and cinematography with Muybridge’s influence still making a mark on modern cinema.

As well as promoting Kingston museum on an international level we are clearly excited at the opportunity to be exhibiting parts of our collection that are being displayed for the first time. This truly will be an enthralling year for any fan of Muybridge’s work.”