Hometown show sends Eadweard Muybridge heritage from Kingston to Washington DC

By Tara May Culpin | 25 March 2010
A black and white image of a horse-like creature galloping

Exhibition: Muybridge Revolutions, Kingston Museum, Kingston-upon-Thames, September 18 2010 – February 12 2011

Eadweard Muybridge is undoubtedly one of the founding fathers of cinematography, and this year his life and works will be celebrated in Washington DC, at Tate Britain in London and, perhaps most importantly, in his hometown of Kingston.

Muybridge, who was born in the town in 1830 and died there 74 years later, was one of the most influential photographers of the 19th century and is best known for his photographic sequence work carried out in the United States.

A black and white photo of a man balancing upside down on one hand

Stop-motion photography was a pioneering form in 19th century photography

It was there that his pioneering stop-motion photography captured animal and human movement in detail for the first time, appeasing debate of the day by providing the first proof of galloping horses lifting all four hooves off the ground at once.

Throughout his lifetime in England, Central America and San Francisco, Muybridge collected a vast array of objects and keepsakes, 3,000 of which were bequeathed to Kingston Museum, giving it one of the world’s most important historic collections of pre-cinema moving image artefacts.

A black and white photo of a mule kicking its hind legs out

Muybridge settled debates by proving that horses lift all four hooves off the ground when they gallop

A number of these items will appear in the Washington and Tate exhibitions, but the majority will be in Kingston’s own tribute to Muybridge, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, including several which have never been on display before.

Museum Curator Peta Cook calls Muybridge "an exciting character" whose work "changed the way his audience viewed the world" and "never fails to intrigue."

A photo of a picture disc from the 19th century

The Kingston Museum holds a 3,000-item hoard of artefacts relating to Muybridge

"He was an innovator, pioneering photographic explorer and entrepreneur," she reckons, describing the show as "a pivotal point" in the Museum's campaign to promote the collection.

"As Eadweard Muybridge's enduring artistic legacy continues to be a source of inspiration for international artists, scientists and cultural theorists, we wish to take this opportunity to put Muybridge, and specifically the Kingston collection, back onto the global stage."

A black and white photo of a 19th century woman in a white dress

Curator Peta Cook says the photographer "changed the way his audience viewed the world"

As well as developing the stop-motion photographic process, Muybridge also invented the zoopraxiscope, one of the first ever machines capable of projecting a moving image.

It worked successfully by use of specially designed glass picture discs derived from his original photographic sequences and, thanks to the £50,000 HLF grant, many of these discs will be on display alongside thousands of the inventor’s “magic lantern” slides.

A resource pack and workshops for schools and a programme of will accompany the exhibition.

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