While researching about the history of stop motion photography, I came across this article about capturing movement and its origins. It was a fascinating read and I will share some of it here. As we have read in the origins of photography, the earliest photographic techniques involved long exposure time frames, from several seconds to even hours, which meant that photographing movement was impossible; but with the right combination of light, subject, lens and plate size exposures of a fraction of a second became possible, though not as easy as it may sound. The making of such photographs came to be known as ‘Instantaneous Photography’, coming to include any photograph that might have an element of movement or was taken with an exposure of less than a second (Harding, 2012)
The earliest and most well known exponent of instantaneous photography was Valentine Blanchard, a British photographer, whose exhibits of London street scenes caused quite a stir when exhibited in the early 1860s. Using the collodion process,(1) he would drive around London and upon finding an interesting scene, quickly climb upon the roof of his carriage, make the exposure and then process it inside the darkened interior of the carriage – his portable dark room (Harding, 2012)
The introduction of more sensitive gelatine dry plates n the 1870s simplified the photographic process further. The first photographer to experiment motion photography was the renowned Eadweard Muybridge, even though he was only one of the several other important pioneers like Etienne-Jules Marey and Ottomar Anschutz. The last quarter of the 19th century saw photographers and scientists alike becoming intrigued with freezing action. One of the pioneers in the field was Ottomar Anschütz, “whose detailed photographs of animal locomotion caught the attention of the German government. Commissioned by the War Ministry, Anschütz recorded horses and their riders at the elite Military Institute in Hannover” (Met Museum, 2020)
Etienne-Jules Marey, a contemporary of Muybridge, was a French physiologist and not a photographer. When Muybridge’s photographs published in Paris, Marey initiated the quest to invent a camera that will picture movement as well as chart it. By 1882, he had developed a camera called Chronophotography, chrono meaning time. He changed the way graphing machines used to chart movements inside the body such as heartbeat as well as the body’s external movements for ever. The difference between Muybridge and Marey was that whereas the former had deployed a multiple camera set up to slice and record individual images of successive stages of movement, images Marey used only one recording of an entire sequence of movement on a single plate’ (Britannica, 2020). Both of their works greatly contributed to the field of motion study and later in the development of the motion picture or cinema.
The wet collodion process involved immediate development and many attempts were made in the 1870s to find a dry substitute for it, thereby eliminating the need for a portable darkroom. In 1871, an English physician named Richard Leach Maddox, suggested suspending silver bromide in a gelatin emulsion, an idea eventually leading to the introduction of factory-produced dry plates coated with gelatin containing silver salts in 1878, marking the onset for the modern era of photography (Britannica, 2020).
The gelatin plates, being 60 times more sensitive than collodion plates, meant increased speed and also made the camera portable, free of the tripod, leading to the introduction of a variety of small hand-held cameras at low costs, the most popular of them being the Kodak camera, introduced by George Eastman in 1888. I watched an interesting video about his estate that has been turned into a museum in New York, which can be found here. It greatly increased the popularity and growth of amateur photography, especially amongst women, to whom much of Kodak advertising was addressed. The glass plate gave way to a flexible film roll and was capable of taking 100 circular pictures, each about 2.5 inches in diameter. The roll once finished was sent along with the entire camera back to the Kodak factory where it was processed and printed.
I was quite pleased to note that almost all the forefathers of stop motion photography conducted their experiments on various animals along with human movements. And it is incredible to see how far we have come in the development of the cameras and their speed. Here’s my little ode to Muybridge & his contemporaries, who made this possible.
Collodion Process – Frederick Scott Archer’s discovery of the wet collodion process, that was way superior to any others then in existence at the time, is undoubtedly one of the most important contributions to the progress of photography during the 19th century. Using the calotype process to produce paper negatives, he began to explore and experiment in order to develop a more finer and detailed process, for which he used collodion, a sticky solution of gun cotton in ether, a newly discovered substance used as a medical dressing, which dried quickly to produce a strong waterproof and transparent film. The process involved coating a glass plate with collodion mixed with potassium iodide and then immersing the plate in a sensitising solution of silver nitrate. Exposed in the camera while still wet, the plate was then developed and fixed immediately resulting in crisp, detailed negatives produced by exposures of only a few seconds. Initially known as the Archertype, but commonly known as the wet-collodion process, Archer’s process was to dominate photography for the next thirty years (Harding, 2012)
The video above is quite self-explanatory and I found it quite useful to understand the collodion process, which was at least 20 times faster than the previous methods. This process was universally adopted almost immediately as it rendered the finer details with great precision, rivalling that of the daguerreotype, and greatly increased the popularity of photography, reigning supreme for more than thirty years (Britannica, 2020).
Fig 1-3 Blanchard, V. (1856-65) Instantaneous Views, 1856 – 1865, Valentine Blanchard © The Royal Photographic Society | National Science and Media Museum blog. At: https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/photography-a-z-instantaneous-photography-capturing-motion/#:~:text=The%20first%20photographer%20to%20experiment,Jules%20Marey%20and%20Ottomar%20Anschutz(Accessed 14/07/2020).
Fig 4-9 Anschutz, O. (1886) Ottomar Anschutz Pictures And Photos – Getty Images|Gettyimages.in. At: https://www.gettyimages.in/photos/ottomar-anschutzfamily=editorial&phrase=ottomar%20anschutz&sort=mostpopular (Accessed 14/07/2020).
Fig 10 Anschutz, O. (1884) Ottomar Anschütz. Untitled. 1884 | Moma |The Museum of Modern Art. At: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/83573 (Accessed 14/07/2020).
Fig 11 Anschutz, O. (1884) Photography Of Storks – Anschütz, Ottomar – Google Arts & Culture . Available at: https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/photography-of-storks/YQHlv8GMcDJRsA?hl=en-GB (Accessed 14/07/2020).
Fig 12 Marey, É. (1895-98) Étienne-Jules Marey | Flight of the Pelican (1887/1887-89) Artsy. At: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/etienne-jules-marey-print-of-partial-film-strip-of-a-white-horse-in-six-frames (Accessed 14/07/2020).
Fig 13 Marey, É. (1885-90) Étienne-Jules Marey | Chronophotograph of a Man on a Bicycle, ca. (1885/1890) Artsy. At: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/etienne-jules-marey-print-of-partial-film-strip-of-a-white-horse-in-six-frames (Accessed 14/07/2020).
Fig 14 Marey, É. (1895-98) Étienne-Jules Marey | Print Of Partial Film Strip Of A White Horse In Six Frames (1895-98) Artsy. At: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/etienne-jules-marey-print-of-partial-film-strip-of-a-white-horse-in-six-frames (Accessed 14/07/2020).
Fig 15-16 Singh, A. (2020) Cat Fight [Photograph] In possession of: the author: Rajasthan, India.
Britannica, E. (2020) A Discussion Of George Eastman And The Museum Established On His Estate. At: https://www.britannica.com/video/166593/George-Eastman-discussion-museum-estate-House-Picture (Accessed 14/07/2020).
Grundberg, A. and Gernsheim, H. (2020) History Of Photography – Development Of Stereoscopic Photography|Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/technology/photography/Development-of-stereoscopic-photography#ref416434 (Accessed 14/07/2020).
Harding, C., 2012. A Is For… Frederick Scott Archer, Inventor Of The Wet-Collodion Process. [online] National Science and Media Museum blog. Available at: <https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/photography-a-z-frederick-scott-archer-wet-collodion-process/> [Accessed 14 July 2020].
Harding, C. (2013) I Is For… Instantaneous: Capturing Movement For The First Time | National Science and Media Museum blog. At: https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/photography-a-z-instantaneous-photography-capturing-motion/#:~:text=The%20first%20photographer%20to%20experiment,Jules%20Marey%20and%20Ottomar%20Anschutz (Accessed 14/07/2020).
Metmuseum.org. (2020) At: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/266656 (Accessed 14/07/2020).