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River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the…

River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Rebecca Solnit

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Title:River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West
Authors:Rebecca Solnit
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2004), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West by Rebecca Solnit (2003)



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This is a biography of an early photographer and then a whole lot more; the west, industrialization, Stanford, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Captain Jack. Wild and rambling, making sweeping surprising connections. All great fun and thought provoking. ( )
  snash | Sep 25, 2016 |
Basically amazing. Rebecca Solnit surveys Eadweard Muybridge's life and career, tracing the changing effects of space and time throughout his photographic work. At the same time, Muybridge is but a tiny corner in the story, simply the distillation of the larger cultural currents at play—the annihilation of space and time by railroads, telegraphs, and photography that radically changed our sense of what distance meant and made the world accessible (in a certain sense) to all.

Solnit also pulls off one of the my favorite opening chapters of all time, up there with Caro's survey of Robert Moses' power in the opening to The Power Broker. Read it! ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
For Solnit, Eadweard Muybridge (née Edward Muggeridge) was a representative figure in the development of technologies that transformed human perceptions of time and space, a transformation toward ‘modernity’ that also excited alienation and dislocation. Hers is a familiar take on the Industrial Age. In a pneumatic clock designed by Muybridge, with a series of pumps attached to a master clock controlling the motion of slave clocks, Solnit sees not only a device for the regulation of time but a metaphor for a mechanical universe. Metaphor, denotation and ironic juxtaposition mark her prose. In his large-plate photographs of Yosemite, Muybridge undercut the Victorian penchant for grandeur by presenting the tumult of raging water, glacial scree, gnarled tree trunks, and jagged boulders. His stop-action motion studies of running horses and flying birds changed the art of painting, and in a series of images for the Pennsylvania Academy in Philadelphia captured the excruciating efforts of a 340-pound woman getting up from the ground to stand. Sarah Winchester passed the last two decades of her life in a house under continuous construction in order to ward off the spirits of the Indians killed by the repeating rifles invented by her late husband. When reservation police arrived to arrest Sitting Bull for inciting insurrection, his trained horse, a gift from Buffalo Bill, began dancing at the sound of the gunfire that killed the great Lakota chief. The River of Shadows rambles around, but in a mostly pleasant and informative way. In the last few pages, when Solnit likens the hideout of a Modoc rebel in the lava beds of northern California to Plato’s Cave, you have the sense that she has crossed out everything in her notebook, and told her story well. ( )
  HectorSwell | Jun 18, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142004103, Paperback)

The world as we know it today began in California in the late 1800s, and Eadweard Muybridge had a lot to do with it. This striking assertion is at the heart of Rebecca Solnit’s new book, which weaves together biography, history, and fascinating insights into art and technology to create a boldly original portrait of America on the threshold of modernity. The story of Muybridge—who in 1872 succeeded in capturing high-speed motion photographically—becomes a lens for a larger story about the acceleration and industrialization of everyday life. Solnit shows how the peculiar freedoms and opportunities of post–Civil War California led directly to the two industries—Hollywood and Silicon Valley—that have most powerfully defined contemporary society.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:00 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In modern history, Muybridge has a significant role -- he captured the motion of the horse with his innovative technology, leading to motion pictures. The impact of recording motion is explored by Solnit as she studies Muybridge and his subsequent life, including the cultural and historical impact on a highly industrialized society.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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