Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Do the Locomotion

(Above) Jumping, running straight, high jump, 1887: collotype - 5¼ x 18 inches: collection of Morehouse Gallery

(Above) Hammering at an anvil and using hatchet, saw (E. M. Self-portrait), 1887: collotype - 9 x 12 inches: collection of Morehouse Gallery

Lifting a 50-lb. dumbbell, 1887: collotype - 6½ x 17¾ inches: collection of Morehouse Gallery

Baseball, running and picking up the ball, 1887: collotype - 5¾ x 18 inches: collection of Morehouse Gallery

(Above) Arising from the couch and stretching arms, 1887: collotype - 9¼ x 12½ inches: collection of Morehouse Gallery

(Above) Jumping, standing broad jump, 1887: collotype - 8¾ x 13 inches; collection of Morehouse Gallery

From Animal Locomotion, 1887: collotype, 8 x 13¾ inches; collection of Morehouse Gallery

I HAVE ALWAYS LIKED THIS WORK ON MOVEMENT BY Eadweard Muybridge (1830 - 1904). His work is sold at numerous galleries, but you’ll find a deep, comprehensive selection with Richard Morehouse, Morehouse Gallery. 3 Regent Circle Brookline MA 02445 USA

You can reach Richard at this numer: 617-734-6100, or e-mail him with questions at: inquiries@morehousegallery.com
. I have always said to people re: collecting art: “know your art dealer.” Well, you can’t get any better than Richard Morehouse. He is a delight to chat with about art, and especially the thing he knows best—investing in photography.

“EDWARD JAMES MUGGERIDGE” (with this surname at birth) was born in Kingston on Thames, and it is said that because this area is associated with the coronation of Saxon kings, he took on a name closely resembling (as he saw it) the Anglo Saxon equivalent. In his early twenties, he went to live in America, gaining a reputation for his landscape photographs of the American West. As he used the collodion process, like other travel photographers he would have needed to take with him all the “sensitising” and processing equipment, as all three processes of sensitisation, exposure and processing needed to be done while the plate was still wet.

During the late sixties and early seventies he made some two thousand pictures, exposing negatives to sizes up to 20 x 24 inches. Though he is not given due acclaim, many his landscape studies rank with the best.

However, Muybridge’s main claim to fame (apart from being tried and acquitted for the murder of his wife’s lover!) was his exhaustive study of movement. Just about this same time the French physiologist Etienne Marey was studying animal movement, and his studies began to suggest that a horse’s movements were very different from what one had imagined. One of the people who became aware of this research was Leland Stanford, a former governor of California, who owned a number of race horses. Stanford was determined to find the truth about this. It is said that he bet a friend that when a horse gallops, at a particular point all four feet are off the ground simultaneously. To prove his case he hired Muybridge to investigate whether the claim was true.

By the 1870s lengthy exposures had been reduced to a minimum, and thus it became possible for photography to begin to extend one's vision of reality. It took a little time, however, for Muybridge to perfect a way of photographing which would supply the answer, for the Collodion process was rather slow.

Whilst working on this project Muybridge also undertook other assignments, and it was on his return from one of these, we are told, that he became aware that his wife was having an affair with another soldier. In true Wild West style he shot the soldier dead, and was duly imprisoned for murder; however, presumably partly because of his connections, he was acquitted a little later, and was asked to photograph the Panama railroad, some distance away from the scene of the crime.

Returning to his movement experiments, a few years later Muybridge was able to photograph a horse galloping, using twenty four cameras, each triggered off by the breaking of a trip-wire on the course. He not only proved Leland right, but also showed that, contrary to what painters had depicted, a horse’s feet are not, as hitherto believed, outstretched, as if like a rocking-horse, but bunched together under the belly. This discovery caused considerable controversy, but eventually became more generally accepted.

Muybridge’s studies are very comprehensive, and include some detailed studies of men and women walking, running, jumping, and so on.

This information © ProFotos. Thanks to Little Eva for the title.

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