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Archive for September, 2007

Eadweard Muybridge

Famous British photographer Eadweard Muybridge

Famous British photographer Eadweard Muybridge was an innovator and pioneer in the early motion picture and film process. He was ahead of his time in trying to capture movement and bring photography to life.

As a Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiute Native American Indian person I can appreciate his pioneer spirit as he captured the early life of my people camping in Yosemite Valley along the Merced River.

For eons the Paiutes had camped along the Sierra Nevada and every now an then a photographer would capture Paiutes camping in the high Sierra.

Like this photo below entitled “Piute Indian Camp”;

Paiutes camped in the Sierras

What Eadweard Muybridge, the famous English photographer, did that was innovating and different was he decided  to capture a Native American scene like a movie director.

He started off far away from his subject and moved closer in giving the impression of someone seeing the Paiute village and then moving closer until they are inside the camp. Like a person walking into the camp and moving around.

Muybridge moved around the camp photographing early Native American Paiute life in Yosemite. A feat that no one had done before. This was Eadweard Muybridge’s vision of an early movie scene that he probably tried to capture and convey in this series.

We Paiutes believe that his genius would have gone unnoticed in this series if not for one Paiute who had seen several of Muybridge’s photos. People had thought that Muybridge had taken individual photos at different times, but they were actually photos taken in a series. Yosemite National Park Service believes that they were Miwoks, but that is not true once the Paiute started to see that the photos were numbered.

Once he noticed the numbers on the photos the Paiute put them together in numerical sequential order and the genius of man, Eadweard Muybridge, was revealed.

Eadweard Muybridge, the famous British photographer, and an early father of motion photography, had experimented in taking photos like a movie director would. The photos in this series appear like a photographic movie board. You can see the mind of this genius as he perceived a scene in motion, like a walk into an early Indian camp.

Muybridge also put the question of what tribe the people in the photos were to rest. Yosemite National Park Service hired a person years ago who was married to a Miwok, who tried to pass off serveral of Muybridge’s photos as Miwok people, but we Paiutes suspected they were really Paiutes. Not only was this one of Muybridge’s early experimenation in moving pictures, but he also documented early life of the Paiute people in Yosemite Valley. He saved the memory of our people that a certain Yosemite employee was trying to erase.

For this we Paiutes want to thank the genius of Eadweard Muybridge and his early attempts at motion pictures.

Here are the photos after they were put together in numeric sequential order. They appear like one of his early attempts of motion pictures. We also want to thank the Paiute who put the photos together and his blog.

Below are some of the earliest photos of Paiutes camping in Yosemite around 1870, by Eaweard Muybridge, the famous photographer.

Here are the photos in sequence, so you can see the progression. Remember Eadweard Muybridge also did those great photos in motion of nude people running and animals in motion.

photo no. 1571; Here Muybridge can see the Indian encampment along the Merced in the distance as he approaches. I can’t tell if he is on a boat, on the other side of the river or on an embankment.

1571 Yosemite Paiute encampment along Merced River
photo no. 1572; Here Muybridge is getting closer to the Indian encampment along the banks of the Merced. You can see the granite rocks in the back.

1572 Yosemite Indian encampment closer
photo no. 1573; Muybridge is now on the beach and shoting the village. You can see a camp fire in the close distance.

1573 Yosemite Indian camp along the beach
photo no. 1574; Titled “Piute Chief’s Lodge”. Here Muybridge goes to the “Piute Chief’s Lodge” and photographs the interior of the Paiute chief’s lodge. He probably went up to the headman first to ask if he could take photos or try to converse with him. That last sentence is just a guess, but it is probable since that is the first photo up close.

1574 - Piute (Paiute) Chief's Lodge
photo no. 1575; Muybridge takes photo of a meeting of ceremonial significance. Someone is talking. In Paiute we had people we called “Talkers” who told of the traditions and history of ceremonies since we had no written language.

1575 - Yosemite Paiute ceremony
photo no. 1576; Muybridge walks over and shots a small group or family sitting in their own corner of the camp. In the back you can see another small family grouping. They have their Wonos in front and other baskets. A Wono is Paiute for Burden basket.

1576 small Yosemite Indian group

photo no. 1577; Muybridge takes a photo of men sitting on a log. They are wearing hats and other western style clothing. It was titled “Piute Bucks on a log”.

1577 - Yosemite Indian men sitting on log

photo no. 1578; I don’t have this one.

photo no. 1579; Muybridge takes photos of young teen males swimming in the Merced. Trying to keep cool in the summer. The title indicates that it is summer time and is called “A Summer Day’s Sport”. Paiute kids are trying to keep cool as the older people meet.

1579
photo no. 1580; Muybridge takes photo of an “Octenigarian” and a young boy. The face of the woman is blurred. They have a simple camp.

1580 - An eldery Yosemite woman with boy.

photo no. 1581; Muybridge then photographs a “Medicine Man Sleeping” below. His house was created  with boards leaning against a tree to make a shelter. His Wono (burden basket) lays next to him.

Medicine Man Sleeping

photo no. 1582; Muybridge then goes to photograph women leaching acorns and making bread. One is stirring her basket.

1582 - Paiute women cooking

photo no. 1853; I don’t have this one.

photo no. 1854; Five marriage age girls. One on the farthest left wears an early style Paiute beaded collar. The others have headbands.

1584 - Five Marriage age girls. One wears Paiute collar.

photo no. 1855; Muybridge than takes his camera to the outer edge of the camp where there is a Paiute sweatlodge with someone in it. Paiutes would sweat than jump into the river to cleanse themselves.

1585 - Paiute sweatlodge in Yosemite.

photo no. 1856; At the same camp is the famous German born painter Albert Bierstadt who is working on one of his paintings or drawings. Paiute children are to his right watching him, like kids do. Meanwhile the ceremony continues in the background. The group in the back looks like they are performing a Paiute round dance off to the side as the marriage age girls sit in the foreground.

Albert Bierstadt at the Yosemite Paiute camp.

photo no. 1857; Muybridge photographs Albert Bierstadt painting a an Indian man in front of the Paiute chief’s lodge as other Indian men watch Bierstadt paint from behind. The man in front of the chief’s lodge looks like Captain John, the leader of the Yosemite – Mono Lake Paiutes. The man who one of my elders said threw the rock that killed Chief Tenaya.

1857 - Albert Bierstadt painting Yosemite Indian man

Thank you for going with me on journery to early Yosemite Paiute Indian life.

Some of the earliest photographs of Yosemite Native Americans.

*These photos were numerically sequenced to show Eadweard Muybridge’s journeys into Yosemite Valley.

This is in dedication to the genius of the early pioneer of motion pictures, Eadweard Muybridge, the famous British photographer and innovator.

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