Eadweard J. Muybridge – Written Biography
Eadweard J. Muybridge was born on April 9th, 1830 and died in May 8th, 1904. He was an English photographer and was known mostly for his creation of the Zoopraxiscope, a device for projecting motion pictures.
Muybridge was born Edward James Muggeridge at Kingston upon Thames, England. It was thought that he changed his name to match that of King Eadweard. Although he didn’t change his name until the 1870’s, he changed his surname very early on in his career to Muygridge, which he then later changed to Muybridge at the launch of his photographic career.
In 1855, Muybridge arrived in San Francisco, starting his career as a publisher’s bookseller. After a stagecoach accident in which he received very severe injuries to his head, he returned to England for a few years to recover. He re-appeared in San Francisco in 1866 as a photographer named Muybridge, and rapidly became successful in his profession. His photographs were sold by various photographic vendors and entrepreneurs on Montgomery Street, San Francisco’s largest commercial street at that time.
Muybridge built his reputation in 1867 with his photos of Yosemite and San Francisco, which made Muybridge become much more famous for his landscape photographs. In the summer of 1868 Muybridge was hired to photograph a U.S. Army’s expedition into Alaska.
In 1871, Muybridge was invited by the California Geological Survey to photograph for the High Sierra survey. In that same year he married his first wife, Flora Stone. By 1873, the Central Pacific Railroad had advanced into India and Muybridge was invited by the army to photograph the Modoc Wars.
In 1872, former Governor of California Leland Stanford, a race horse owner, wanted to see if all of a horses hooves left the ground at the same time when it was running. He took it apon himself to prove this, and he asked Muybridge to help him. To help prove the claim, Muybridge developed a way of instantaneous motion picture capture. Muybridge’s technology involed many different chemical formulas of photographical processing and an electrical trigger created by John D. Isaacs. The design for the trigger is what Muybridge could never work out, and without issac’s trigger Muybridge’s contraption may never have been created.
In 1877 Muybridge settled the argument with a single negative showing a racehorse airborne in the midst of a gallop. By 1878, Stanford spurred Muybridge on to continue his experiment. Muybridge then successfully photographed a horse in fast motion using a series of 24 cameras. The first successful try was on June 11 with all of the press present. He used a series of Stereoscopic cameras, 21 inches apart over a distances of 20 feet to cover one horse stride. The cameras had tripwires attached to them that were triggered by the horse’s hooves. The resulting series of photos are now at Stanford University, and is called ‘The horse in motion.’
The relationship between Muybridge and his patron Stanford broke down in 1882 when Stanford created a book called ‘The horse in motion as shown by instantaneous photography’ Which omitted Muybridge’s original photographs.
In 1874 while living in San Francisco, Muybridge discovered that his wife had committed adultery, and had a lover. On October 17th, 1874, Muybridge went to find the man, and killed him with a gunshot. Muybridge also believed that he was not his son’s real father. he was put on trial for murder, but it was acquitted as a “Justifiable Homicide.” His relationship with Stanford was re-strengthened, as he paid for Muybridge’s defence.
One part of Muybridges defence was a plea of insanity from his previous head injury. His friends said that his personality had dramatically changed since the accident. Although the jury dismissed this plea, it would not be unlikely that he could have received brain trauma from the severity of the accident.
After his trial, Muybridge left for central America, returning in 1877. He had his son, ‘Florado Helios Muybridge’ put into an orphanage. As an adult, his son was a farm hand and was killed after being hit by a car in 1944.
Eadweard Muybridge returned to England in 1894, published two more popular books of his work, and died on May 8th, 1904 in Kingston apon Thames.
The Opera ‘The Photographer’ is based on his murder trial and was created by Philip Glass in 1982. A promotional music video of an excerpt of the opera dramatized the murder and the trial and included a considerable number of his photographs.