Eadweard J. Muybridge was an English photographer who spent much of his life in the United States. He is known for his pioneering work on animal locomotion which used multiple cameras to capture motion, and his zoopraxiscope, a device for projecting motion pictures that pre-dated the flexible perforated film strip.
Eadweard Muybridge was born Edward James Muggeridge at Kingston upon Thames, London, England on April 9, 1830. He is believed to have changed his first name to match that of King Eadweard as shown on the plinth of the Kingston coronation stone, which was re-erected in Kingston in 1850. Although he did not change his first name until the 1870s, he changed his surname to Muygridge early in his San Francisco career and then changed it again to Muybridge at the launch of his photographic career or during the years between.
In 1855 Muybridge arrived in San Francisco, starting his career as a publisher's agent and bookseller. He left San Francisco at the end of that decade, and, after a stagecoach accident in which he received severe head injuries, returned to England for a few years. While recuperating back in England, he seriously took up photography sometime between 1861 and 1866, where he learned the wet-collodion process. He reappeared in San Francisco in 1866 with the name Muybridge and rapidly became successful in photography, focusing principally on landscape and architectural subjects, although his business cards also advertised his services for portraiture. His photographs were sold by various photographic entrepreneurs on Montgomery Street (most notably the firm of Bradley & Rulofson), San Francisco's main commercial street, during those years.
Muybridge began to build his reputation in 1867 with photos of Yosemite and San Francisco (many of the Yosemite photographs reproduced the same scenes taken by Carleton Watkins). Muybridge quickly gained notice for his landscape photographs, which showed the grandeur and expansiveness of the West. The images were published under the pseudonym “Helios.” In the summer of 1868 Muybridge was commissioned to photograph the Modoc War, one of the U.S. Army's expeditions against west coast Indians.
Many of his photographic sequences have been published since the 1950s as artists' reference books. In 1985 the music video for Larry Gowan's single "(You're A) Strange Animal" prominently featured animation rotoscoped from Muybridge's work. In 1986 the galloping horse sequence was used in the background of the John Farnham music video for the song "Pressure Down". In 1993, U2 made a video to their song "Lemon" into a tribute to Muybridge's techniques. In 2004, the electronic music group The Crystal Method made a music video to their song "Born Too Slow" which was based on Muybridge's work, including a man walking in front of a background grid.
A documentary of his life and work, titled Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer was made by filmmaker Thom Andersen, in 1974.
Composer Philip Glass's 1982 opera The Photographer is based on Muybridge's murder trial, the libretto including text from the transcript. A promotional music video of an excerpt of the opera dramatized the murder and trial and included a considerable number of Muybridge images. Kingston University, London, UK has a building named in recognition of his work as one of Britain's most influential photographers.
The play "Studies in Motion: The hauntings of Eadweard Muybridge" debuted in 2006, a co-production between Vancouver's Electric Company Theatre and the University of British Colombia Theatre. While blending fiction with fact, it tells the story of Muybridge's obsession with cataloguing animal motion. The production started touring in 2010.
In 2007, Canadian poet Rob Winger wrote Muybridge's Horse: a poem in three phases, a long poem nominated for the Governor General's Award for Literature, Trillium Book Award for Poetry, and Ottawa Book Award. It documented his life and obsessions in a 'poetic-photographic' style. It won the CBC Literary Award for Poetry.