- This book is a biography of Muybridge, but it’s also something more. Describe the something more.
- This book is about the conversion of power that is natural, to a power that exceeds natural power, and how that expansion of speed condensed time and space. It is about modernity as it moved west with the trains The trains condensed time and space and technology exploded in ways never imagined with one thought leading to the next forever leaving behind the image of man being limited by the speed of what he could control without science. Muybridge started out to find an answer to a simple question, that would seem to have little consequence other than to the man who was curious about what his eye could not distinguish alone. Once the question was answered it planted seeds of curiosity in first Muybridge and eventually many others. The inquisitive thoughts about motion expanded beyond Muybridge and touched many other worlds, science, art, even labor with Frederick Jackson Taylor’s studies on labor efficiency. The point of the book was using Muybridge and where he went with this new technology, but the same could be said for many other innovations at the same time. In the background others are experimenting with technologies , some to move things forward , others like the native Americans attempting to hang onto a way of life that is suddenly being taken from them. While Muybridge is preserving an image of man to be played back after he dies, the Modoc are trying to bring back all that have died in the past to help fight the overwhelming technologies of the whites through the Ghost Dance. This new world that found a way to annihilate time and distance, that found ways to flatten the landscape and allow man to ignore natural limits. The author uses Stanford’s curiosity that had little importance to others as a starting point that would lead to other questions and other technologies and whole industries.
- What does this book tell us about the history of the American west and the history of California in particular? It tells us that when the railroads connected the east to the west that San Francisco became a center for modernization and that new ideas had found a place to continue the industrialization and innovation of the east. But in the west it seemed like there were few constraints and everything was wide open and open to make a name for yourself. As Solnit explains “Something entirely new had been invented, something that would change the world, a kind of headstrong rootless sense of heroic possibilities and glamour still summed up by the word California”. (P 123) Although California was the furthest west of the west it was the center of the west. It was were the west drew like a magnate the innovators, the railroad tycoons , The new beginnings and fresh starts. It was almost a mythological place with its divergent natural resources and possibilities. It became a culture open to new ideas backed by great wealth. That wealth allowed for experimentation and ideas to grow into implementation. Experimentation like a very wealthy man wondering whether a horses hooves are simultaneously off the ground at the same time, and then what may seem frivolous or even decadent to prove it grew into a succession of improvements on technology that created a whole industry, and along the way pushed science and labor and art to new un-imagined understandings. The west was untamed when we got there, as was nature, the migrants that moved there tamed it to a certain degree, sometimes for the good and sometimes , often by unintended consequences for the bad.
- Why should we care whether all four legs of a horse ever get off the ground at the same time when its trotting? We shouldn’t really care, but it is a testament to mans curiosity that what comes out of a question that has no real use grows. The question needed an answer for just Stanford and his study of horses, but once Muybridge found a way to reach an answer, that led to many more questions, first in Muybridges wonder and study of motion to what led to the motion picture industry and all the things in between. It was with that first examination of the horses hooves that Muybridge realized that the eye alone does not catch everything.That is why he decided to do so many strips of people naked, it was to reveal what was hidden by the shadows within a motion. He realized that clothes themselves hid the motion of the body.He wanted to expose everything once he realized how much was hidden from the naked eye.