Eadweard James Muybridge was born on April 9, 1830 as Edward Muggeridge at Kingston-on-Thames, England, the son of John and Susannah (Smith) Muggeridge. In 1852, Muybridge immigrated to the United States. After a brief career in the printing business, Muybridge studied photography and eventually gained recognition for his landscape photographs of the American West.
In 1883 several important Philadelphians, including J.B. Lippincott and the provost William Pepper attended a meeting in the office of the provost of the University of Pennsylvania. During this meeting, the men decided to provide Muybridge with the grounds of the Veterinary Hospital and a $5,000 advance to begin work on the landmark study, Animal Locomotion. Starting in 1884, the University constructed an outdoor studio for Muybridge near 36th and Pine. The outdoor studio consisted of a three-sided black shed. White strings hung on the back wall of the shed to form a grid to measure the movement of a human or animal as it passed through the frames. For the production of the Animal Locomotion study, Mubridge improved his photographic techniques by using dry plate technology, rather than the wet plate technology he had previously used. He also equipped his three batteries of twelve cameras each with electronically released shutters, allowing shorter exposure times.
The Animal Locomotion study contains 781 photographs of males and females performing common actions, often nude; physically deformed males and females from the Philadelphia Hospital and a variety of animal species from the Philadelphia Zoo. Models also included students and faculty from the University of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. This study, completed in 1887 and published under the sponsorship of the University, would prove to be of great use to artists, anatomists, physiologists, and athletes. To see more of Muybridge’s images, click here.
Muybridge used a special printing technique to capture these mesmerizing and enduring images. Heliogravure is the oldest procedure for reproducing photographic images. It was first invented in the early 19th century by Joseph Nicéphore Niepce, of France, and later perfected by Talbot, Niepce de Saint-Victor, Baldus and Klic.
The process involves two distinct steps. First, in a complex photochemical procedure that creates the intaglio surface, the photographic image is fixed and etched upon a specially prepared copper plate. The finished plate is then placed on a hand-turned press, and the image is printed onto dampened etching paper using special inks. The result is an incomparably rich palette of blacks and shades of gray, its breadth of tonal range, its exquisite expressiveness.
Today there are only a handful of individuals in the world who specialize in this domain.
This llama series is in the collection of local artist Tracy Helgeson and her husband. See some of Tracy’s own work at her website, click here