Most students of photography learn about Eadweard Muybridge when they are studying motion and shutter speed. Imagine images of a horse and rider galloping in silhouette you are probably picturing Muybridge’s most famous images. His photographic studies of animal and human locomotion are significant.
The Corcoran Gallery of Art hosted an exhibit of Muybridge’s work and the man was more than grids and trip wires. The exhibit was called Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change and it was massive with over 300 examples of his work. The locomotions studies were there as were photographs of San Francisco and some of the most stunning images of Yosemite I have ever seen (relax Ansel, I said ‘some of’). That very short list is just the tip of the iceberg.
Muybridge’s life was creative and very colorful. He changed the spelling of his name a few times, created very successful businesses, traveled extensively, settled bets with photography and murdered his wife’s lover. The exhibit catalouge is a great resource as is Rebeca Solnit’s book River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West.
Muybridge inspires me because of his persistance and his problem solving skills. Most of all, his lovely landscapes remind that the simple beauty of a well composed image can be a moving experience. There doesn’t always have to be a ‘big idea’ behind the work. Muybridge and Timothy O’Sullivan are the reasons I own a stereo Holga!