Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Eadweard Muybridge at Tate Britain

Most animators will know Muybridge from his books, Animals in Motion or The Human Figure in Motion. He is famous for his use of clever photography that used multiple cameras in quick succession to produce the characteristic images of horses walking and running.

Horses in motion

This exhibition at Tate Britain provides a more overall view of his work. The first few rooms of the exhibit look at Muybridge's time in California and Central America. Whilst there Muybridge experimented with a range of photographic techniques. In Yosemite he produced very large prints and attempted to use multiple exposures, a technique we now called "High Dynamic Range" photography. He also successfully grafted the sky from one photo onto the landscape of another. Stereo photographs were another of his achivements but the examples and glasses provided at the Tate don't demonstrate this effect as well as I've seen elsewhere.

The panoramas of San Francisco are very impressive and as well as showing photographic achivement show the social history via the items and buildings.

The second half of the exhibit focuses on the photos of moving animals and people we more commonly associate with Muybridge.

Muybridge in one of his own photos

His early work focuses on horses and in some cases the photographs were of such poor quality that he employed artists to trace the outlines. However these were sufficient for basic analysis of foot movements and show the arcs that animators should be used to seeing. As well as moving pictures of horses Muybridge took still images to aid an artist with foreshortening. As he got more practiced at taking photographs of movement he also developped more advanced and faster camera shutters. His topics also grew in sophistication with acrobats, and athletes employed as models. His photographs of everyday people including himself in the nude cause controversy. However not all were critical with artists such as Edgar Degas for one taking inspiration for his leaping horse sculpture.

So that people could see these photographs in action, Muybridge invented the Zoopraxiscope which was effectively a projector version of the Phenakistiscope.

The Zoopraxiscope from Kingston Museum and Heritage Service

The Zoopraxiscope used a disc of tiny 15mm slides with a counter rotating disc of slots to project the moving images. This is one of the earliest examples of projected motion picures.

The Muybridge exhibition is at the Tate until 16th Jan 2011 and gives a great insight into the works of this pioneering photograph and aid to all animators.

1 comment:

FleaCircusDirector said...

A different perspective on the exhibition from Andrew Ray of Some Landscapes