Ignacio Nacho Figueras: A Caballo

Ignacio Nacho Figueras: A Caballo

A Caballo is a new film from Nowness by photographer and filmmaker Matthew Donaldson, who celebrates the raw power of man and beast by capturing Nacho Figueras on one of his favorite horses in minute detail.  The polo champion spins a sumptuous 180 in Donaldson’s slow-motion epic.  The bronzed Argentine horsemen that swarm Long Island’s polo fields each summer are tall, dark, handsome and, with the globe-trotting, sun-chasing lifestyle their sport afford, indecently glamorous.  The most storied of all these Latin gods is Ignacio (Nacho) Figueras, who with his chiseled jaw, moody brown eyes and tousled locks is not only one of the world’s top 100 polo players, but the face of Ralph Lauren Black Label and Polo fragrances worldwide, and, according to a 2009 issue of Vanity Fair, the second most handsome man in the world.  Born in Argentina, where polo rivals soccer as the national sport, Figueras began playing at the age of eight and became a professional at 17.

He began his secondary career as a model in 2000 after being introduced to legendary fashion photographer Bruce Weber at a dinner party, and found that his raised profile enabled him to be an ambassador in the democratization of polo.  He was the brains behind the annual Veuve Cliquot tournament on Governor’s Island that has introduced the sport to a whole new generation of New Yorkers.

Ignacio Nacho Figueras: A Caballo

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Beware Little Guard Dog: Able to Leap Tall Buildings!

Beware Little Guard Dog: Able to Leap Tall Buildings!

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Flicker: Animals in Unsupported Transit

Flicker: Animals in Unsupported Transit

Flicker: A Moment in the Life of Eadweard Muybridge

Flicker is a short one-minute experimental film that was directed by Hamish Anderson, a talented young English filmmaker. Flicker is presently on The 2008 Shortlist of Filminute, a juried international one-minute film festival that challenges filmmakers to develop and submit the world’s best one-minute films. Hamish Anderson is a university student who is the son of the British film artist Peter Anderson. Prior to making Flicker, Hamish created a documentary made in Zambia with UNICEF and a three-minute film, Canned Spirit, about an English graffiti artist.

Hamish lives in Oxford, England, and the film set for Flicker was created in his home there. In addition to filmmaking, Anderson’s other creative talents include drawing and design; accordingly, he drew the dogs that appear in the film with a fine black pen, and he also made the zoetrope (the spinning device that shows the drawings of the dogs).

Flicker is a film that uniquely and explicitly reveals an image of artistic convergence. Anderson describes his film as “a filmic representation of a moment in the life of the pioneering photographer, Eadweard Muybridge.” Muybridge is legendary for his “Horse in Motion” high-speed photographs of a trotting horse, which resolved the long-running controversy over whether all of the horse’s four feet ever leave the ground at the same time. The “Horse in Motion” photographs are considered by many in the know to be the world’s first motion pictures.

Curiously, Anderson describes his film as the portrayal of “a moment” in the life of Muybridge, but he doesn’t further specify what he intends that particular moment to be. Actually, Flicker depicts a convergence of moments. At one level, the film could simply be taken as an illustration of “the moment” in which Muybridge was first able to display his photographs as moving pictures. But it’s important to note that Anderson is not displaying Muybridge’s own photographs in his film. Instead, he’s using drawings of Muybridge’s photographs, which in fact replicates another significant “moment” or event that actually took place in Muybridge’s own life.

That “convergent moment” involved the relationship between the mercurial Muybridge and his financial patron, Leland Stanford (a Former California Governor). It was the “moment” in Muybridge’s life when their relationship completely broke down after Stanford commissioned a book called The Horse in Motion as Shown by Instantaneous Photography. That 1882 book omitted the actual photographs that had been taken by Muybridge, relying instead on drawings and engravings based upon the photographs, and at the same time the book gave Muybridge little credit for his work.

Flicker: Animals in Unsupported Transit

Eadweard Muybridge’s Horse in Motion: The World’s First Motion Pictures

The Horse in Motion: Freezing Time

He was one of the most famous people of the 19th century, but the name of Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) is nearly unknown today. In 1855, Muybridge left England and settled in San Francisco, starting his career as a publisher’s agent and bookseller. He left San Francisco at the end of that decade, and after a stagecoach accident in which he received severe head injuries returned to England for a few years. Muybridge reappeared in San Francisco in 1866 and rapidly became successful in the photography profession, focusing almost entirely on landscape and architectural subjects.

In 1872, the former Governor of California Leland Stanford, a businessman and race-horse owner, had taken a stance about a then popularly-debated question of the day: whether all four of a horse’s hooves left the ground at the same time during a gallop. Stanford sided with the assertion that they did, an idea called “unsupported transit“, and took it upon himself to prove it scientifically. To prove Stanford’s claim, Muybridge developed a new photographic technique that facilitated instantaneous motion picture capture. In 1877, Muybridge settled Stanford’s question with a single photographic negative that showed Stanford’s racehorse Occident airborne in the midst of a gallop.

By 1878, encouraged by Leland Stanford to expand his experiment, Muybridge had successfully photographed a horse in fast motion using a series of twenty-four cameras. The first public demonstration of his new moving picture technique successfully took place on June 11th, and it was attended by members of the press. Muybridge used a series of 12 stereoscopic cameras, set 21 inches apart to cover the 20 feet taken by one horse stride, taking pictures at one thousandth of a second. The cameras were arranged parallel to the track, with trip-wires attached to each camera shutter that were triggered by the horse’s hooves.

This series of photos is known as The Horse in Motion, and it shows that the hooves do all leave the ground, although not with the legs fully extended forward and back, as contemporary illustrators had tended to imagine. Rather, it occurred at the moment when all the hooves are tucked under the horse, as it switches from “pulling” from the front legs to “pushing” from the back legs.

Few people remember that those photos were just a beginning for Muybridge. Through further work, he was able to develop his new technology so that it took the extended series of images and transformed them into the first moving pictures. Twenty years before Thomas Edison popularized his own projector, Muybridge was filling auditoriums across the United States and Europe with audiences eager to see the first motion pictures. Later, Edison did all that he could to obscure the true origins of the cinema, in order to protect his own patents.

Horse in Motion: The World’s First Motion Pictures

3D Computer Graphics: The Horse in Motion

The Photographer: A Gentleman’s Honor

In 1874, while still living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Muybridge found a letter that had been sent to his wife, a letter revealing that she had a lover, a certain Major Harry Larkyns. On October 17, 1874, he sought out Larkyns, saying to him, “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here is the answer to the letter you sent my wife.” Muybridge then killed the Major with a gunshot. He was put on trial for murder, but was acquitted by the jury with a verdict of “justifiable homicide.”

An interesting aspect of Muybridge’s defense was a plea of insanity due to the head injury Muybridge had sustained years earlier in his stagecoach accident. His friends testified in court that the accident had dramatically changed Muybridge’s personality from genial and pleasant, to unstable and erratic. Although the jury dismissed the insanity plea, it is not unlikely that Muybridge did experience some emotional changes due the earlier head injury. This episode in Muybridge’s life was the subject of The Photographer, a well-known 1982 opera by Philip Glass, with words that were drawn from the trial and from Muybridge’s own letters to his wife.

Philip Glass: The Photographer/A Gentleman’s Honor

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The Amazing Horse “Blue Hors Matine”: Brilliant Freestyle Dressage Dancing

Andreas Helgstrand Riding Blue Hors Matine

At The Grand Prix Freestyle Dressage in Aachen, Germany on August 26th, 2006, Andreas Helgstrand and Blue Hors Matine turned in an electrifying performance to earn the Silver Medal. Andreas Helgstrand of Denmark had a marvelous freestyle dressage, riding the amazingly unbelievable Blue Hors Matine in a performance that got the audience, a huge sold-out crowd of 40,000 people crammed into every corner of the stadium, clapping in rhythm with her passage as she went down the centerline at the end of her performance. This beautiful horse was so exciting and as regular as a metronome in her piaffe and passage, which was flaunted in front of the judges at every opportunity. That’s the strategy with a freestyle; if you do something well, do it in their faces. If there’s something you don’t do well, hide it away in a corner. And Blue Hors Matine did it all well, extraordinarily well, indeed. One can even easily pardon her flapping tail, since it really did seem to express just how happy she was to be dancing!

The Amazing Horse “Blue Hors Matine”: Brilliant Freestyle Dressage Dancing

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