Eadweard Muybridge

Last week I visited the new Eadweard Muybridge exhibition at Tate Britain. On leaving the gallery, I saw a note on the foyer wall saying visit the cafe and download the Muybridgizer app for your iPhone…..

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Polishing jewelry
Polishing jewellery

The exhibition was fascinating. There was a wide range of work on display and a lot was new to me. Before his experiments with time sequences, Muybridge made a lot of money in the United States from some of his landscape photography, particularly with stereographs. These were small cards with two photographs of the same subject, each from a slightly different perspective. Seen through a handheld viewer, the photographs were transformed into a 3D image. He also frequently worked with an 18×24 inch plate camera, and it was noted at the time that he cut trees down by the score in the quest for the perfect view! This has crossed my mind on more than one occasion in Richmond Park. It’s not specifically mentioned in the permit terms and conditions, so I assume it’s open to debate with the Parks Police.  Worth a go next time.

My favourite image, by far, was one of the sequences. Not one of the horses or athletes, which had the appearance  of  scientific experiments. Or the lady in a hat, jumping over a stool. Or even model 95, described as a 60 year old ex-athlete, who turned out to be Muybridge himself . ‘Frightening chickens with a torpedo’ must have been one of those tests carried out on a Friday afternoon for the sheer hell of it! It wins hands down for its pointlessness  –  and humour.  Good job Leland Stanford, Muybridge’s patron, had a lot of money. Unfortunately , at the moment, I can’t actually find a link to the image.

The exhibition is at Tate Britain and runs from 8th September 2010 to 16th January 2011

Comments (2)

  1. costanza

    I’m really sorry to bother you, but I’m desperately trying to understand what exactly “Chicken scared by a torpedo” represents and I believe you have seen it. Unfortunately I am in rome, italy, so it’s impossible for me to go see in at Tate. Could you possibly explain to me what it is represented in details, as to say, is it one chicken, or more than one; what exactly is a torpedo, a small firework, an explosive device, an aerial torpedo, a fish (?), something else? I am translating a book, in which it is being quoted, and there is not a single image on the web, I’m lost… very gratefully, indeed, costanza

    • Paul Debois

      Hi Constanza – The sequence of photographs illustrates a small group of chickens, with what looks like small explosive devices/fireworks exploding near them. The explosions are very small, like fireworks, with a little bit of smoke. Obviously the chickens are startled, and some are jumping in the air.
      Torpedo is the term used by Muybridge – it now normally means an explosive device used by the military. I think he is more than likely talking about fireworks or something on that scale. The title sounds more dramatic in the description than in reality. I can’t remember how many photographs there are in the sequence – they didn’t really prove anything and seemed pointless! They looked as if they were taken at the same place Muybridge carried out most of his work.
      Hope this helps! Best wishes, Paul