It’s a kind of magic

05.10.2010 | Art , Blog , Culture | BY:

Eadweard Muybridge is more like a magician than a photographer. His legacy spans the divide between

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scientific documentation and investigative – yet humorous – art. Deemed able to stop time, Eadweard Muybridge, born Edward James Muggeridge in 1830 in Kingston upon Thames, is now the focus of an exhibition at Tate Britain. Best known for using stop-motion to prove that a galloping horse has all four feet off the ground at one stage in its stride, the Tate’s retrospective works reveal a fuller picture.

Leland Stanford, Jr. on his Pony “Gypsy”—Phases of a Stride by a Pony While Cantering, 1879

Muybridge’s documentary approach and catalogue aesthetic prefigures cinematic technology and is yet wholly reminiscent, for modern audiences, of that medium. His composition of panoramic landscapes is akin to the skill of a film director. What’s more, his invention of ‘zoopraxiscope’ – a method of projecting painted versions of his photographs as motion sequences – anticipated the technological advancements that were to come in cinema.

This is a show that appeals to biologists and historians, as much as photographers as filmmakers. The visceral truths Muybridge uncovered about natural life and technology’s possibilities are ultimately: “a feat in photography which has never been excelled, and which marks an era in the art.”

Dancing (fancy.) (Movements. Female). Plate 188, 1887

Eadweard Muybridge is at the Tate Britain until 16 January 2011.

Horses. Running. Phryne L. Plate 40, 1879, from The Attitudes of Animals in Motion, 1881.

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