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.

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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:

ADDRESS:
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.

berne1
On the back of which, is this:

berne2

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.

https://ejmuybridge.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/in-search-of-helios/

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Early Popular Visual Culture

repv20.v011.i01.cover-1

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.

muybridge6

Eadweard Muybridge: Father of the Motion Picture?

Kingston Museum and Heritage Service

Kingston Museum and Heritage Service

And as a final post for 2012, the text of a talk given at Kingston Museum at the opening of the Muybridge: Revolutions exhibition, 2010.

Eadweard Muybridge: Father of the Motion Picture?
Writers dealing with the motion sequence photography of Eadweard Muybridge have traditionally described him as the ‘Father of the Motion Picture’, and the title of this talk is taken from one of the first biographies. In popular accounts of the subject, this is still a major theme. In this talk, Stephen Herbert examines whether this perspective is valid or relevant. Muybridge’s place in Victorian attempts at producing moving images is investigated, together with the historiography of Muybridge in the 20th-Century, when cinema was the dominant visual medium, and onward into the digital age. For each generation, Muybridge’s work has a new meaning that relates to our own experiences and the media of our time.

And you’ll find the rest here:

http://www.stephenherbert.co.uk/muyFATHER.htm

 

Happy New Year!

 

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

 

All Change at Kingston

Jill Lamb (Photo: Kingston Museum News)

Staff News
One of the world’s most important collections of Muybridge material is held by Kingston Museum, in Muybridge’s home town. As with all local authorities, Kingston Council has had to make changes to its staffing and access, following a reduced Heritage budget. The Museum will now close on Mondays (in addition to Wednesdays and Sundays), so is now open four days each week, including an extended evening opening (until 7pm) on Thursdays.

Peta Cook left as Curator in September, after more than five years in post. Grace McElwee, Head of Libraries and Heritage, writes: “Peta has decided to travel the world and also visit relations in Australia, picking up museum jobs along the way… Peta was meticulous and conscientious in all she did but she will be especially remembered for her promotion of the Muybridge Collection which has put the work of this important pioneer on the map locally, nationally, and internationally…”

Our congratulations are due to several other long-standing members of the team. I was delighted to learn that Jill Lamb has been appointed Heritage Team Leader and Borough Archivist. For many years, one of Jill’s many responsibilities while working at the North Kingston Centre has been providing access to the Muybridge Collection, and for the past two decades Jill has always been most helpful to me with my own work at Kingston. And very recent news is that congratulations are also due to  Emma Rummins, another of Kingston’s stalwarts who has also been of great assistance with Muybridge artefacts over the years, will be changing jobs – from Local History Officer to Museum Curator, replacing Peta Cook. A new member of staff, Amy Graham, joined the museum team as a Heritage Assistant for 3 months, starting in October 2011. Amy recently moved to Kingston from Newcastle where she worked in the University of Northumbria’s art gallery. Sandra Murphy is Visitor Services Officer; Tove Bellingham is Exhibitions Officer; and May Cheyne is Administration Officer. A new post of Learning & Engagement Officer has been created. Less happy is the news of Rod Lewis’s departure at the end of this year.

Considering the financial situation that this country is presently facing, the immediate future seems bright for Kingston Heritage overall, including the Muybridge Collection.

Local History Room move postponed
During August, it was officially announced that there will be a delay to the closing of the North Kingston centre for one year. This essentially means that the Local History Room, Archives and Administration Office for Kingston Museum & Heritage Service (including most of the Muybridge artefacts) will remain at North Kingston Centre until summer 2013. News of the new location has yet to be announced.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert – with thanks to Kingston Museum News (Issue 67 – October 2011.)

Muybridge / Watkins / Naef

This is from a recent blog:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Flying Horse, the movie

Bill Douglas in 1972

Inevitably, the name Bill Douglas had to crop up in Muy Blog at some time. I’ve been bumping into Bill, and later his legacy, for almost forty years. The first time was when, as a young projectionist at the National Film Theatre in London, I was screen checking the new 16mm print of his film My Childhood (1972), just before an important showing – perhaps its British premiere. Afterwards I was walking through the foyer and spotted a character standing by the doors, chain smoking and looking very nervous. I remember thinking ‘That’s got to be the director.’ The film won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and became the first of a trilogy dramatising Bill’s life. In the 80s I would often see Bill and his lifelong friend Peter Jewell at a weekend book sale or antique photo fair in one of the London hotels, and a few times chatted about treasures acquired, as fellow collectors of books and objects relating to film and pre-cinema. Bill and Peter came to the opening of my 1990 exhibition Magical Lanterns at London’s Museum of the Moving Image (co-curated with Lester Smith) and Lester’s photograph of Bill beside the silhouette lanternist from the extraordinary Bill Douglas feature Comrades (1987) is a favourite that’s often used to illustrate articles about the late director.

Bill died of cancer the following year; as Peter said at his NFT remembrance event, ‘Mr Benson and Mr Hedges killed him.’ For that special remembrance day I was involved in putting together many short out-takes from Comrades, as a one-off presentation.

I remember the flat where Bill and Peter lived in Soho, its walls double and triple lined with books, and was privileged to see some of their collection at Peter’s family home in Devon. After the establishment of the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture at Exeter University, the collection’s eventual home, I sat on the Management Board for some years and was responsible, with Richard Crangle, for arranging the original museum display at the Centre. Today this includes a cabinet of Muybridge items, and a full-size print of the 13-panel San Francisco Panorama, copied from the orginal at Kingston Museum. Bill’s last script was for a feature entitled Flying Horse – about Eadweard Muybridge, of course. Which is where we came in.

Flying Horse script. Bill Douglas Centre, University of Exeter

This month in Edinburgh there is to be a Bill Douglas Weekend. In one of the articles promoting the event the Muybridge script is mentioned, and the slight possibility that the movie could yet be made. With the Andy Serkis feature apparently about to go into production, this seems less likely than ever. I have mixed feelings about the possibility of Flying Horse finally being produced. The script could certainly make a good film, but what chance of finding a director who would make it a great one, as Bill surely would have done? His innate understanding of the nature of the cinematic moving picture and how it is created and perceived from a fragmented stream of images – an aspect which must surely be central to any telling of the Muybridge story in the moving picture medium – is unusual, even amongst talented film directors, and the possibilities are only hinted at in the script. What visual poetry Bill Douglas would have made of this extraordinary subject.

Bill Douglas Centre, University of Exeter

The Bill Douglas Weekend is at Craigmillar Art Centre, Newcraighall Road, Edinburgh, on 29-30 of October. The Bill Douglas Trilogy and Comrades have been released on DVD by the BFI, priced £22.99.

 

Posted here by Stephen  Herbert

The Tycoon and the Inventor


A couple of years ago I spent a pleasant lunch chatting with author Edward Ball about Eadweard Muybridge, who was to be the subject of his next book. A while back I heard that it was to be published by Random House, and the title The Octopus and the Inventor: Eadweard Muybridge, the Killer Who Created the Movies cropped up (the ‘octopus’ being Leland Stanford) but then things went quiet. I notice that Doubleday have now listed the book as forthcoming, with the title The Tycoon and the Inventor.

This from Amazon:

From the National Book Award-winning author of Slaves in the Family, a riveting true life/true crime narrative of the partnership between the murderer who invented the movies and the robber baron who built the railroads.

One hundred and thirty years ago Eadweard Muybridge invented stop-motion photography, anticipating and making possible motion pictures. He was the first to capture time and play it back for an audience, giving birth to visual media and screen entertainments of all kinds. Yet the artist and inventor Muybridge was also a murderer who killed coolly and meticulously, and his trial is one of the early instances of a media sensation. His patron was railroad tycoon (and former California governor) Leland Stanford, whose particular obsession was whether four hooves of a running horse ever left the ground at once. Stanford hired Muybridge and his camera to answer that question. And between them, the murderer and the railroad mogul launched the age of visual media.

Set in California during its frontier decades, The Tycoon and the Inventor interweaves Muybridge’s quest to unlock the secrets of motion through photography, an obsessive murder plot, and the peculiar partnership of an eccentric inventor and a driven entrepreneur. A tale from the great American West, this popular history unspools a story of passion, wealth, and sinister ingenuity.

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Books (24 April 2012)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0385525753
ISBN-13: 978-0385525756

Posted here by Stephen Herbert