Saturday, June 25, 2016

Camel Run

This is about Take Five of this Muybridge project. It's not often I get TWENTY images to work with, but then again, it's not often I get twenty images to work with (meaning it seems to take forever to get them into a form I can use for a decent gif). There were several time-consuming outtakes that didn't make the cut, though the first one did have a certain raw energy that appealed to me.

This one has a little more polish to it in that I got rid of a lot of crap in the margins, and most of the camel is still visible in the frame. It seems to me the Muybridge photos vary in size, or they seem to, making cropping them out of the big sheet of images much harder. 

These are stills taken in sequence, and were in fact never meant to be strung together into a "motion picture" because such a thing didn't exist yet (though there were praxoscopes and things like that, things that spun around and fooled you into thinking there was motion. To me it sounds like some sort of device a proctologist would use, but never mind). One was supposed to examine a photo, then examine the next one, then examine the next one, etc., etc., to get a sense of what exactly happened when a body was in motion. Thus, those sheets with all the images printed on them (see below), strange-looking things with a grid in the background and heavy black margins that I try to crop out, though a Muybridge purist would probably leave them in. These look primitive, but they were a miracle back then.  Don't forget: this was a time when people thought a trotting horse always kept one hoof on the ground, and a galloping horses went from back legs to front legs in leaps, in the manner of those old heroic paintings.

As a kid I was enamoured of flip-books which we made by hand. I wasn't as good at them as my brother. I never lost the fascination. Unfortunately it's nearly impossible to find useful sequences of photos like this camel one (imperfect as it is, with the camel framed a little differently in each photo, the graph in the background fluctuating wildly, and even the ground bopping up and down as if there's an earthquake going on).

So I end up going back to Muybridge. 

Still, the eye is fooled. Even with the jerkiness and wildly varying backgrounds (and it feels to me as if there's a frame missing somewhere), there is a sense of motion. Of an actual animal running. I like the way one of its humps flops up and down, and the way the two humps go in opposite directions like one of those tassel-dancers. It looks camelish to me, and moves as camelishly as anything did before the movie camera was even invented.

POST-BLOG FEVERISH MAUNDERINGS. I was wrong about the praxiscope. It doesn't exist, never did. There were, however, many many proto-motion picture/pre-film devices that experimented with the illusion of movement through the rapid spinning around/flipping/projecting of stills. Below is a lovely pink link to a site that gives you all sorts of beautiful information. It's an older, non-slick site that's set up beautifully, logically, with no "things" popping or bulging or moving around. You can actually SEE it, in the tradition of seeing pre-film technology and stuff.

I like the exotic-sounding names of these devices: zoetrope, praxinoscope, kinetoscope, cinematographe, mutoscope, vitascope. . . and no doubt many other scopes that never became well-known. And if you think I'm going to tell you about them. . . just click on the pink link, it'll tell you everything you need to know.

Muybridge dancer