Eadweard MuybridgeAmerican, born England (Kingston upon Thames, England, 1830 - 1904, Kingston upon Thames, England)
Pi-Wi-Ack (Shower of Stars), Vernal Fall, 400 Feet, Valley of Yosemite
Eadweard Muybridge is one of many photographers who documented the American West at the end of the 19th century. Photography played a key role in the development of the region and its influence on American identity. In the 1860s, Muybridge, Carleton Watkins, and Charles Leander Weed competed to produce awe-inspiring photographs of Yosemite Valley, a site that symbolized the promise of the frontier. Their pictures served both to generate support for the foundation of national parks and to satisfy a growing audience for photographic prints.
This photograph by Muybridge shows Yosemite's Vernal Falls emerging from a sheer cliff face. There is no visible horizon and the pictorial space is quite flat, resulting in a very modern-looking image. Because of the long exposure time, the waterfall appears as a light-filled volume, a representation of dimensional space occupied through time. In contrast to the rock-solid cliffs, water is portrayed here within a different aesthetic framework; its flow is not so much documented as poetically evoked.