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Eadweard Muybridge 

Eadweard Muybridge portrait

Known as the 'father of the motion picture', Eadweard Muybridge's early photographic experiments laid the foundation for modern cinema, with his study, The Horse In Motion (1882), regarded by many as the first ever moving picture. Developing his keen interest in photography whilst recuperating from a stage coach crash in 1860, Eadweard Muybridge moved to America upon his recovery, joining a San Franciscan photo business. Quickly establishing a reputation for landscape work, he was appointed director of photographic surveys for the U.S. Government in 1868, conducting studies of numerous remote areas, including the newly purchased Alaska.

A capable and successful commercial photographer, Eadweard began to consider rapid motion photography in 1872 when approached by Californian racehorse owner, Leland Stanford. Stanford had reputedly laid a wager on the contentious issue of whether a galloping horse was ever airborne. Using wet plates Eadweard produced faint, highly underexposed plates, proving Stanford's assertion that all four hooves did, in fact, leave the ground at the same time.

In 1877, after standing trial for the murder of his wife's lover, Eadweard returned to his attempts at high-speed photography. With the support of Stanford he expanded his experiments into horse movement, setting up a series of fifty cameras parallel to the race track. By connecting their electrically controlled shutters to trip wires lain across the track, he ensured each one automatically took its own picture as the horse sped by. The work was widely respected, being published in scientific journals and formally released in the study, The Horse in Motion (1882).

Inventing the zoopraxiscope, Eadweard found a way to project his silhouettes in rapid succession onto a screen. First demonstrated to the public in 1882, it is often quoted as the first ever moving picture. Years later, his pioneering work was cited as a major inspiration in the invention of the modern cine-camera by Thomas Edison.

Having sparked considerable scientific interest, Eadweard took his work to the University of Pennslyvania. Developing a new multi-lens camera, he produced a celebrated high-speed study into the movement of both animals and humans, published in eleven volumes as Animal Locomotion: An electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movement (1887).

Returning to England in 1900, he died at his cousin's house in 1904, and the building now hosts a British Film Institute (BFI) commemorative plaque, recognising the contribution he made to the film industry.

WildFilmHistory Films

film-smallThe Horse in Motion (1882)Photographer 
Plate 758 from Eadweard Muybridge's 'Animal Locomotion' (1887) depicting a cockatoo flying
Plate 758 from Eadweard Muybridge's 'Animal...
Eadweard Muybridge's Zoopraxiscope disc no 42, showing galloping horses
Eadweard Muybridge's Zoopraxiscope disc no...
Eadweard Muybridge's time-lapse photographs of a man riding a galloping horse
Eadweard Muybridge's time-lapse photographs...
Eadweard Muybridge's operations room at his experimental track used during the making of The Horse in Motion
Eadweard Muybridge's operations room at his...
Eadweard Muybridge's experimental track used during the production of The Horse in Motion
Eadweard Muybridge's experimental track used...
Eadweard Muybridge portrait
Eadweard Muybridge portrait
The trotting horse 'Occident' by Eadweard Muybridge
The trotting horse 'Occident' by Eadweard...