Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), photographer, inventor, and artist settled in San Francisco in 1866. He soon established a freelance business photographing landscapes of the west, such as Yosemite, and accepting commissions to document the homes and possessions of the wealthy. Later (1872-1882) Muybridge collaborated with Leland Stanford, photographing Stanford’s trotting horses at his farm in Palo Alto. Financed by Stanford’s money and motivated to find the answer to the question, “do all 4 hooves of the horse leave the ground at a gallop?” Muybridge used multiple cameras to take sequential photos of a galloping horse. His success at taking the multiple shots and projecting them onto a screen with his invention, the zoopraxiscope, was the beginning of motion pictures.
Curiously, this innovative career might have been derailed. In 1874 Muybridge discovered that his wife was having an affair. He traveled to the gold country to confront the man, and killed him. A sensational trial followed, adding to Muybridge’s celebrity and resulting in a controversial “justifiable homicide” verdict.
Had Muybridge been imprisoned, we might not have his legacy of photographs and motion studies today. Nor would Muybridge have visited Thomas Edison and shown him the zoopraxiscope.
Today you can find evidence of Muybridge throughout the Bay area.
In 1878 Muybridge took a series of photos of the growing city from the Mark Hopkins mansion on Nob Hill, resulting in a clear and detailed image over 17 feet long. Today sections of this photo are on display at the Wells Fargo Museum, 420 Montgomery St. Typically, Muybridge added clouds to his photos (early photoshopping) for atmospheric effects.
Muybridge used a wet plate process for his photography, developing his pictures immediately on site.