What I'm Reading: Film---In Motion

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

If a photograph is worth a thousand words, a motion picture is worth a thousand feelings.

If you're an avid Film Awakening blog follower, you'll remember our discussion of the first photograph by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in the late 1820s. Roughly sixty years later, humans began to manipulate photographic technology to create pictures in motion or as we know them today---movies.

Today we'll be looking at the first motion picture which, although simple, represents the start of an industry that is now worth $136 Billion.

The "Horse in Motion" by Eadweard Muybridge (1878) represents the birth of motion photography. Interestingly enough, this video was not intended to break ground on a new technology or application of photography, but rather, to answer a simple question: When galloping, are all four hooves of a horse off the ground at the same time?

Not surprisingly, the answer was yes, however the nature of this yes was shocking to viewers. While the horse became fully airborne in regular intervals, rather than this occurring with the horses legs extended to the front and back, it actually occurred when the horse's legs were "collected beneath its body as it switched from "pulling" with the front legs to "pushing" with the back legs."

This groundbreaking motion picture was created with twelve cameras taking sequential photographs along a horse race track at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Muybridge used impressive ingenuity to automatically trigger the camera shutters when the wheel of a card or the breast or legs of a horse tripped wires connected to an electro-magnetic circuit.

Edward later went on to perform several studies in motion such as "Boys Playing Leapfrog," "Stepping On and Over a Chair," and "Crossing a Brook With Fishing Pole."

Boys Playing Leapfrog (I wouldn't recommend playing this game in the nude.)

Stepping On and Over a Chair (Nude because clothes would weigh her down.)

Crossing a Brook With Fishing Pole (We'll assume she lost her shirt in the stream.)

While Eadweard's contribution to film is long-lasting and undeniable, as I continued my research I became more intrigued by his personal life. The meat of the tragic drama/thriller which was Eadweard's life began in 1871 with his marriage of Flora Shallcross Stone.

Three years later Flora gave birth to a son---HOWEVER (this is a big however) it became apparent Flora had been romantically involved with a mutual friend (Harry). With time Eadweard became increasingly aware of the gravity of this relationship and discovered a stash of love letters Harry had written to Flora along with a photo of his son with the name "Harry" written on the back---leading Eadweard to believe the child was not his, but rather that of Flora's romantic flame. Shortly thereafter, Eadweard tracked down Harry and shot him point-blank in the face.

Harry died and Eadweard went to jail and was tried for murder. His attorney pleaded insanity for Eadweard, citing a severe head injury he had received during a stagecoach accident fifteen years prior. Several acquaintances were brought in to testify how this accident had drastically changed his personality to "unstable and erratic." Despite these testimony's Eadweard claimed his actions were deliberate and premeditated.

In the end, he was acquitted on the grounds of "justifiable homicide," which is to say while Eadweard's actions were not in accordance with the law, they were in accordance with human nature. In other words, the jury, if put in a similar situation, would have pulled the trigger and they could not in good conscience accuse a man of doing something they would have done in similar circumstances.

He later went on to make history with his photographic work. Times have certainly changed.

Hollywood, please explain to me why this hasn't been made into a feature film.

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