Eadweard Muybridge, Pi-Wi-Ack (Shower of Stars), Vernal Falls, 400 Feet, Valley of Yosemite, 1872
Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) was an English photographer known for his pioneering motion studies and early experiments with motion picture projection. After a quiet childhood in England, he moved to the United States where he lived in New York and then San Francisco. He became a successful bookseller, but after a serious stagecoach accident in 1860 he took up photography while recovering in England. He returned to San Francisco in 1867 as a professional photographer and had success shooting landscapes and architecture. In 1872 Muybridge was hired by racehorse owner and former California governor Leland Stanford to answer the hotly debated question of whether all four feet of a horse's feet are ever off the ground while trotting. Muybridge answered the question with a study of one of Stanford's horses, demonstrating that all four hooves did leave the ground at once. This set off his interest in motion studies, perfecting his method of studying horses in 1878, and projecting them to form what is sometimes considered one of the first silent films. In the following years Muybridge did motion studies of other animals and people. He remains best known for this important work but his landscape photographs are quite impressive. The beautiful example of a waterfall at Yosemite demonstrates the scale of his work and the physical risks he took to produce his images.