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The first filmmaker?
When we think of animated movies, it’s often Walt Disney’s name that first comes to mind. However, there is another less-known person whose work is very important to animators. Edward Muybridge was a photographer who taught us more about animal and human motion than any other, and who, with his camera, recorded details that couldn’t be seen with the human eye. It could be argued that he is also one of the very earliest cinematographers, coming up with a device which let him show moving images just like a movie projector. He is particularly famous for discovering that, for a moment, a moving horse lifts all four hooves off the ground at the same time.
Muybridge was an Englishman who moved to the United States in the 1850s, taking up photography after he was seriously injured in a road accident. If he hadn’t suffered serious head injuries when he was thrown out of a vehicle, he might never have chosen the creative profession that he did.
By the 1860s, Muybridge was already well known for his landscape photos of California, but in 1872 he was hired by a race horse owner to try and work out the exact sequence of movements of a horse. By placing cameras along the edge of the track, Muybridge managed to capture a series of images which he then copied on to a disc. Using his invention, the zoopraxiscope, he was able to create a little movie which proved that horses moved very differently from how artists used to paint them.
He then took thousands of images not only of animals, but also of people doing athletic activities and performing everyday tasks such as walking up steps, or throwing water from a bucket. As travel became easier, he was able to give lectures around the world. With his careful, patient art, Muybridge contributed a great deal to science. He didn’t have a quiet personal life, however. In 1874, he killed a man, but was later acquitted of murder.
In 1893, Muybridge charged the public to see his moving images in a hall in Chicago that was built specially for the purpose. This building should really be called the first ever movie theater. His extraordinary photos are still an invaluable reference for movie animators.
1 Edward Muybridge’s photographs showed ___.