A new documentary, Exposing Muybridge, directed by Marc Shaffer shares the remarkable story of photography pioneer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904). The English photographer born in Kingston-upon-Thames was influential to developments in motion-picture projection with his invention of the zoopraxiscope projector.
Numerous historians, photographers and Harry Potter actor Gary Oldman (a collector of Muybridge's works) feature in the documentary, providing insight into the impact this pivotal figure had on photography as a medium.
The documentary begins by sharing the story of Muybridge's riveting life working as a photographer shooting the US military conflicts, later moving to California and partnering with Leland Stanford to create his renowned 'The Horse in Motion' piece.
'The Horse in Motion' released in 1878 as a series of cabinet cards, which converted into 'automatic electro-photographs' displaying motion of a galloping horse once sequenced together. The hypothesis was to prove that a moment existed in a horse's gallop where all four legs would be suspended from the ground.
Muybridge devised a setup inclusive of 12 cameras and a guillotine shutter he invented himself to capture motion in action. The work became an instant success, described in the documentary by cinema historian Thomas Gunning as "offering a picture no one had seen before". Muybridge, however, was accused by many as misrepresenting, and it is revealed that many of his images were edited and staged.
A story of betrayal is revealed once Stanford attempts to claim the success of Muybridge's work for himself, writing a book that downgraded the work to that of a technician assisting on the project, as opposed to sharing full credit for a remarkable invention that can capture images at a fraction of a second.
Concluding the documentary we learn that Muybridge continued shooting sequences of human figures, both clothed and naked, to produce a visual compendium of movement from which scientists and artists could benefit.
Exposing Muybridge depicts a true leading figure of photography and motion. The documentary is available to stream online until 28 November 28, purchase a virtual ticket here.