Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Eadweard Muybridge at Tate Britain

In search of distraction form looming work, I tubed down to Tate Britain to have a look at Muybridge's photographs. What an excellent exhibition of work by a very weird and eccentric gentleman!
His real name was Edward Muggeridge, and although he worked mainly in the USA, he was born (and died) in the UK.
He was a technical photographer to start off with, travelling around with a tent and bottles of chemicals photographing the Yosemite National Park, and even documenting the aftermath of a war in the north western United States between Native American Indians and white men, as the Indians tried to reclaim land that had been stolen from them by the whites. He was prone to cheating- posing Indians from another tribe, when he couldn't get the real thing.
He made a lot of money early in his career and found a patron in San Francisco tycoon Leland Stanford, who commissioned him to photograph his race horses, in order to see if their four feet left the ground as they galloped. Using a set of triggered cameras and tripwires, Muybridge took his famous sequential photographs and proved this to be true. Eventually, he projected these from rotating glass discs like big LPs in order to animate them; the zoopraxiscope he invented to do this was so accurate that Stanford could actually recognise the gait of one of his horses, which had been wrongly identified in the documentation.
What I found interesting were not the lateral photographic sequences, but those that showed the subject through a 360 degree angle, foreshortening them, and apparently inspiring the film The Matrix.
Some of the pictures were funny- the naked male acrobat with flying penis, and the bucket of water being thrown, for instance. He started using grids to measure the pace of movement and there were some rather nasty photographs of disabled people crawling and limping.
I liked the photograph of Muybridge himself, heavily bearded and wielding a pickaxe.
Later in his life, he influenced the narrative by setting off explosions to frighten chickens into flying (the flying cockatoo was a particularly beautiful set of images). He also murdered his wife's lover, and got off scot free; evidently, a horrible man as well as an inventive one.
It's on till the 16th of January- get there quickly: it's fascinating and probably will be a rare collection of so many of his photographs in one place. Definitely worth seeing!

I got back and excitedly plugged in my JV1080, which has been on vacation in the loft. It hummed disgruntledly for a while before exploding. What a dramatic end to the day!
Anyone know a studio equipment mender in North London?

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I really enjoyed that exhibition. The chicken running from an explosion made me laugh! When we went to the gift shop afterwards Edward was there! Or a man who looked like his double-it was quite weird! How's your throat? Hope it is better. x