The photo’s of Eadweard Muybridge

        Category: # 8 Spring 1984 | Article posted on: January 12, 2010

Of course, you need not only copy life, but in the process of characterization you need a real starting point to work from. Walt Disney made a comment to that effect (but you can read all about that in ‘Disney Animation – the Illusion of Life’- for yourself). From the Muybridge books you are able to appreciate the balance and weight of real creatures in motion.

‘Humans in Motion’ is an in-depth reference to basic human movement. There is a useful collection of tasks being carried out as well as, walking, running, jumping, and some acrobatics.

The book is divided into three main sections, Men, Women, and Children. The way actions are divided between men and women may seem sexist to some modern eyes — well, it was the 19th century.

Most of the figures are naked: Muybridge was probably interested from a physiological point of view and an appreciation of physiology could help the animator in animating (rubber-hose animation went out of professional animating a long time ago, people are made of bone and muscle).

Not only are dynamics which are too fast to be appreciated shown, but also people are 3 dimensional things and to be able to draw them as 2D representations of 3D things must be helped by being able to study the photographs. The apparent 3 dimensional nature of things drawn can be expressed in their motion.

One needs to study the photographs in depth, probably by doing animation drawings, to get the most out of them. I feel sure that those interested in movement will glean something from these pictorial references of humans in motion.

As I mentioned, there are some pictures of children and children with adults. There is even a study of a young lad getting a spanking, photographed from two different angles!

There is a touch of humour in plate 160: ‘Woman emptying a bucket of water on a seated companion’ (pictures every 0.437 seconds) – I did wonder if the woman was expecting it.

I do have some niggles with ‘Humans in Motion’. I wish some of the jumping figures had photographs a little earlier than they do in the action. Perhaps the photographs do exist though not produced in this selection. Considering the innovative nature of the equipment (being able to take a series of stills throughout a continuous motion), and the greatness of the undertaking, this does seem a very insignificant quibble.

Sometimes the fact that the photographs go from right to left in sequence instead of left to right caught me out, despite the fact that there is a little arrow which indicates this.
Other more incidental things are seen in the plates of women throwing scarves around their shoulders. A typical example being plate 126, with the shapes of the cloth billowing through the air.

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