Little Bits of History

June 15

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 15, 2017

1878: Proof of how a horse runs is captured. Eadweard Muybridge (born Edward James Muggeridge, but changed his to what he believed to be the original Anglo-Saxon form) was born in England in 1830. He came to America at age twenty but returned to England at age 31. He then took up the craft of photography and gained two British patents around the idea of the wet-plate collodion process. He returned to America and took large photographs of the Yosemite Valley which made him world famous. He 1874, he shot and killed Major Harry Larkyns, his wife’s lover, but was acquitted on the grounds of justifiable homicide. He then traveled in Central America on a photographic expedition. In the 1880s, he created over 100,000 images of animals and humans in motion while at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

By filming individual frames of stop action movement, it was possible to see what the eye could not. The movements were disrupted in mid-pose. At speed, the human eye cannot see the flow of the movements. Leland Stanford commission Muybridge to create a series of still photographs of a horse galloping. Stanford was interesting in the exact gait of a moving horse, specifically, if all four hooves were off the ground at one time. He owned a large farm where he bred and trained horses, both Stanardbreds and Thoroughbreds. The former were used for trotting races while the latter where ridden by jockeys. In order to improve their running styles, Stanford needed to know what that was.

During July 1877, Muybridge attempted to learn the four-hoof answer by taking ever sharper images of Occident, one of Stanford’s trotters, running at racing speed gait. He managed to catch a still shot of the horse with all four feet off the ground. However, when the image was sent to the press, it was found the negative had been retouched and it was disqualified. Although retouching was permitted at the time and Muybridge won an award with the picture, the press was not impressed. So on this day, a new experiment was carried out.

Sallie Gardner, a Thoroughbred, was photographed at 1.40 gait (about 36 mph). Muybridge set up 24 cameras, each 27 inches apart from the prior one. The shutters were controlled by trip wires triggered by the horse’s legs. The pictures were taken one twenty-fifth second apart. The series of photographs could then be viewed in rapid succession using a zoopraxiscope and Sallie Gardner did, indeed, have all four hooves off the ground at once. In  1880, the images were projected to a large screen at the California School of Fine Arts and so began the moving picture industry.

In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality. – Alfred Stieglitz

Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is. – unknown

A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it. – Edward Steichen

I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them. – Diane Arbus


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