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Photographer's Note

Today, 9th April, was the birthday in 1830 of a rather strange yet interesting man, Eadweard J. Muybridge (initially Edward James Muggeridge), born in England and of Dutch ancestry.

Muybridge spent most of his life in the United States and by the late 1860s had gained quite a reputation as a photographer. In 1872, former Governor of California, Leland Stanford, a businessman and race-horse owner, had taken a position on a popularly-debated question of the day: whether all four of a horse's hooves are off the ground at the same time during the trot. Up until this time, most paintings of horses at full gallop showed the front legs extended forward and the hind legs extended to the rear. Stanford sided with this assertion, called "unsupported transit", and took it upon himself to prove it scientifically. Stanford sought out Muybridge and hired him to settle the question.

Of course, in the 1870s there were no cameras such as ours which can fire off up to 10 frames per second, so Muybridge arranged a long row of twenty-four plate cameras beside a track each attached to a thread which would trigger the shutter as a trotting horse passed along the line.

Muybridge then arranged the separate images in a Zoopraxiscope and was able to view this sequence which clearly showed that all hooves do, in fact, leave the ground but not with legs stretched out fore and aft.

Unfortunately, in 1874, Muybridge discovered that his wife had a lover, a Major Harry Larkyns. On 17th October, he sought out Larkyns and said, "Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here's the answer to the letter you sent my wife"; he then killed the Major with a gunshot.

Muybridge was put on trial for murder. One aspect of his defence was a plea of insanity due to a head injury that Muybridge had sustained following an earlier stagecoach accident. Friends testified that the accident dramatically changed Muybridge's personality from genial and pleasant to unstable and erratic. The jury dismissed the insanity plea, but he was acquitted for "justifiable homicide".

An interesting fellow but one whose work certainly provided a sound basis for the later development of cinematography.

This picture, however, was an attempt at a "panning" shot and was taken at horse-trotting races in Mahon (Mao) in Menorca during a very inspiring photographic holiday last year with Philip Dunn.

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Additional Photos by John Cannon (tyro) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1268 W: 393 N: 4696] (18902)
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