Muybridge’s documentary shines a light on film pioneer
Today, Hollywood is a titanic industry that produces film after film. But what about its humble beginnings? Why can we say synonymous with “cinema” when we speak of cinema? We owe a lot to a man named Eadweard Muybridge, a special individual who loved photography as much as he loved changing his name. Now the new documentary, Expose Muybridgehighlights its atypical and fascinating past.
“I was blown away by his story. It was a mixture of personal melodrama – ambition, betrayal, near-death experiences, even murder – and cultural criticism. Muybridge [is] live in a time of technological change, which is very similar to ours, and also [one] saturated with sexism, racism, classism and colonial expansion. [The story] seemed made for the screen,” says director Marc Shaffer. PopPhoto.
The film recently received the “Best Documentary Screenplay” award at the Writers Guild Awards in March.
Who is Eadweard Muybridge?
Related: The best cinema cameras
Although he remains more obscure than other pioneers of photography, Muybridge’s work has had an impact on artists and scientists around the world, though many may be unaware of it.
Born Edward James Muggeridge in 1830 in Kingston upon Thames, England, he changed his name several times during his life. He moved to the United States and eventually settled in San Francisco. After a brief period back in England recovering from a brain-damaging stagecoach accident, he returned to San Francisco with the name we now know. There he worked extensively for the federal government, railroad and shipping companies, and magnates as he documented the American West (and Alaska).
More than a film pioneer
Supported by the patronage of railroad baron and politician Leland Stanford, Muybridge became a pioneer of early cinema. His early works A horse in motion, was shot with a wet plate camera and shows – you guessed it – a running horse. It would become the world’s first moving picture, leading to the development of cinema. At the time, however, a jealous Stanford tried to take credit for it (drama!), leading Muybridge to take his experiments to the University of Pennsylvania, where in 1887 he produced what is now considered his masterpiece. work, animal locomotion.
At that time, the idea of a moving image was still considered ridiculous, but Muybridge helped reshape the way people viewed and interacted with photography. “I hope viewers will be inspired to think more deeply about how machine-made images and the people who create them shape the way we understand the world. Media is what connects us all to each other, beyond our own personal experience,” Shaffer says of the documentary.
Related: The best cameras for making movies on a budget
animal locomotion is made up of 781 plates depicting people and animals in various states of motion – they were considered “the first great photographic study of motion” upon their release. However, while groundbreaking, there is still a cautionary tale worth noting that the documentary explores.
“I hope [people] come out of my film understanding that photographs (and films, especially documentaries) represent a point of view and should be cross-examined rather than taken at face value. Keep challenging the narrative,” adds Schaffer.
How to watch Expose Muybridge
Expose Muybridge will be available in the US and Canada on demand starting August 2. Pre-orders on iTunes begin in July. Additionally, the film will be released worldwide, including Australia, Spain, Scandinavia, and Hong Kong. It will also continue to appear worldwide at film festivals. Check the film’s website for future screenings.