Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Muybridge began his career in the USA in1855 when he traveled to San Francisco, CA to expand his family business.  At that time, he was a bookseller and publishing agent.  Sometime before 1861, he suffered serious injuries in a stagecoach wreck and returned to England to recuperate.  There he learned the wet-collodion process and it became his primary method of producing negatives.

Throughout his long career he applied a number of chemical and mechanical innovations that increased the speed (ISO) of his glass plates and cameras.  In 1866 he returned to San Francisco and built a prosperous reputation as a landscape and architectural photographer using the pseudonym “Helios”. He sold pictures of the urban growth of the city, the wilderness of Yosemite Valley, stereo pairs on many other subjects, as well as portraits and other commercial work.

Different accounts of his early photography (1867-70) credit Muybridge as working for, or with, or possibly even against Carleton Watkins, another popular western photographer.  A Watkins picture is at right. 

Currently, in the fall of 2010, some critics are questioning the authenticity of a few Helios pictures that appear in a comprehensive retrospective show scheduled at the Corcoran and at the Tate Britain.  It may be that Muybridge purchased some work from Watkins and sold it as his own, or he simply copied very similar scenes.  However, almost all the pictures are authenticated as Helios originals.

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