Eadweard Muybridge "re-creation"

A week ago, Mandy forwarded me an e-mail from Patience Young, the Curator for Education at Stanford's Cantor Center for Visual Arts:

"Your participation please! The PBS show "California's Gold" is doing a half-hour show on Eadweard Muybridge and his motion studies here on the Stanford Farm. Next Friday afternoon (April 11), a non-too-authentic-but-fun reenactment of a running horse captured by a dozen cameras will take place near the site of the original experiments. If you can be part of this quasi-historic event (hey, if it appears on TV then it actually happened?), please reply to this email..."

I decided that it would be fun to participate. :) Chester also decided that he wanted to check it out, so he masqueraded as a Stanford alumnus and showed up too, weilding both his mightly Nikon D100 and (for comic relief) a tripod-mounted Pentax Optio-S.

We didn't end up actually re-creating the event (hence, the "not-too-authentic" disclaimer in Patience's original e-mail), but it was a lot of fun to photograph a moving horse while Huell Howser wandered around with a cameraman. PBS will use our photographs during the credits of this particular CG episode, and a few interviews might end up there as well. I even snapped a shot that would have won the original bet -- which is a miracle, because the horse was nowhere near a full gallop. :)[see some photos]

Here's the e-mail Patience sent us about Muybridge and this event:

-----Original Message-----
From: Patience Young
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2003 6:20 PM
To: Muybridge dozen
Subject: Confirming Cameras! Action!


Thank you for responding to our call for tomorrow's photo shoot. Here's the plan:

We will meet at 1:30 pm at the historic and picturesque Red Barn. It's located near the riding stables: beyond Campus Drive West near Governor's Corner, take Electioneer to left on Fremont to the barn. (If you look at a campus map, you'll see that it's a short bikeride or pleasant walk from familiar campus locations.) Please be prompt.

We're going to stage a very approximate re-creation of Eadweard Muybridge's motion studies here at the Farm. In the 1870s, Leland Stanford commissioned EM to figure out how to capture a running horse on film in order to determine whether all four feet left the ground at any one time. (They do.) In that era, film was slow, lenses were slow, and no one had accomplished this. EM did, and history was made. For these experiments, a barn/shed was fitted with twelve cubicles for twelve cameras, with a dirt track running past it; the track and wall opposite were covered in white to reduce exposure times, and each of the cameras was hooked up to a trip wire on the track. As horses were run past the barn, each of the twelve cameras were triggered in turn to catch the horse in front of it; the sequence of twelve photos showed the full motion of the horse. Oh! and this was all done with wet collodion plates, which had to be prepared and kept wet for exposure and processing. It was, all in all, an extensive undertaking. And EM did it again, and again...he made a second career of motion studies.

So! We're not going to do all that. We will have a horse and rider running past us on the arena facing the Red Barn [the original photo barn is long gone], and we will have a dozen or so photographers (that's you!) lined up to click your shutter when the horse is in front of you. And, there will be a cameraman capturing all this (on video) for the PBS show "California's Gold."

If you've told me you need film, we will have it for you. Otherwise, just show up with equipment ready to go. We'll turn our film back over to PBS, and if you're shooting digital, we'll ask that you send your best pix to them electronically, so that these can be included in the program. Eventually, this will all be part of a half-hour "CG" show on Muybridge. I've never seen it, but I'm told that its host, Huell Howser, is quite a character.

Wear whatever you like, keeping in mind that this will be on PBS and you'll be representing Stanford. We are not attempting period dress! And if you have friends who also want to participate, bring them along too--we're still a bit shy of our desired dozen cameras, and more is fine.

Again, thank you for participating in this little adventure! See you tomorrow at the Red Barn at 1:30.