Eadweard Muybridge: Birth of a Photographic Pioneer

Today we mark the birth of British photographer, inventor and innovator Eadweard Muybridge. Born April 9, 1830, Muybridge was one of the early pioneers of photography, whose work documenting the movements of animals and humans continues to inform and influence today. What the human eye could not capture at the time, Muybridge’s series of cameras, often operating on timers, could. And so, viewers of the late 19th century were able to see in a sequence of photos every step taken by a horse at full gallop, the sleek movements of a cat running and each flap of the wings of a bird in flight. Imagine if you were seeing these actions frozen on film for the first time:

Animal locomotion - 16 frames of racehorse "Annie G." galloping. Collotype, copyrighted by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b00681

Animal locomotion – 16 frames of racehorse “Annie G.” galloping. Collotype, copyrighted by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b00681

Animal locomotion. (Cat running.) Collotype, copyrighted by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c21044

Animal locomotion. (Cat running.) Collotype, copyrighted by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c21044

Animal locomotion. (Cockatoo in flight.) Photo copyrighted by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b17474

Animal locomotion. (Cockatoo in flight.) Photo copyrighted by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b17474

The zoopraxiscope--Horse galloping. Lithograph, copyrighted by Eadweard Muybridge, 1893. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.05947

The zoopraxiscope–Horse galloping. Lithograph, copyrighted by Eadweard Muybridge, 1893. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.05947

In 1879, Muybridge developed a device he called the Zoopraxiscope to use for presentations.  One inserted a disc with images around the edge into the device, which rotated and projected the images onto a screen. The discs were usually painted glass based on Muybridge’s photographs. The effect was to give the audience an impression of movement, bringing Muybridge’s work to life.

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