Eadweard J. Muybridge. Woman Jumping, Running Straight High Jump: Plate 156 from Animal. Locomotion (1887). 1884–86. Collotype, 7 3/16 × 16 7/8" (18.3 × 42.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum

“We are going to find out everything that photography can teach us about animal movement.”

Eadweard Muybridge

In the summer of 1878, Eadweard Muybridge filed for a patent. “The principal object,” the photographer and inventor explained in his application, “is to take photographic views of horses that are moving rapidly under speed, in order to determine the posture, position, and relation of their limbs in different portions of their step or stride.”1 Muybridge’s interest in the “step” and “stride” of horses dated to 1872, the year the railroad tycoon Leland Stanford asked him to resolve a debate among horse enthusiasts: When a horse was trotting (or galloping), did all four of its hooves leave the ground simultaneously? The answer, as Muybridge proved in a photographic project that stretched from 1872 to 1879, was yes. Using an array of cameras equipped with electric shutters, Muybridge settled a dispute that could not be settled by the human eye.2 His horse photographs demonstrated the artistic, scientific, and industrial potential of photography as a medium; they also made him famous, and launched his lifelong study of animal movement.

Muybridge was born Edward James Muggeridge in 1830, in a town south of London. But he would reinvent himself on multiple occasions, changing his name, profession, and city as he searched for new opportunities. In 1852, he moved to New York, where he became Edward Muggridge; in 1855, he moved to San Francisco, where he became E. J. Muggridge, then E. J. Muygridge, and finally, Eadweard Muybridge. Movement, for Muybridge, was central to his work and his identity alike. Following a career as a bookseller in New York and San Francisco, Muybridge devoted himself to photography. He made his name—by the 1870s, “Muybridge”—with photographs of California’s growing cities, as well as its striking coast and rugged interior. One of his most successful expeditions was to Yosemite Valley in 1872. The area’s granite mountains, towering waterfalls, giant sequoias, and lush meadows had been painted and photographed previously, leading Muybridge to seek out new terrain. In some prints, he depicted remote cliffs and cataracts from vantages that seem to defy gravity; in others, he depicted smooth-as-glass rivers that reflect distant peaks. In both cases, the photographer focused on rock and water—the two essential elements of Yosemite’s unique geology.3

Muybridge left California for Central America in 1875, aboard a ship owned by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. For over a year, he traveled from Panama to Mexico, with lengthy stops in El Salvador and Guatemala. All the while, Muybridge photographed bays and valleys, churches and cathedrals, palaces and fortifications, plazas and cemeteries, and markets and coffee plantations. “The subjects are all original, and have never been photographed before,”4 he boasted in the preface to an 1876 album containing many of the Central American prints. Muybridge, whose travels were funded by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, was candid about the aim of these prints: to promote, in his words, “profitable enterprise”5 in Central America. (“Profitable” for foreigners, not locals.) Yet he also wished to celebrate the region’s physical beauty and cultural traditions, from the “remarkable volcanoes, lakes, mountain scenery, and luxuriant vegetation of Guatemala” to the “picturesque costumes and dwellings”6 of its Maya, Garífuna, and Xinca inhabitants. As these comments suggest, the Central American photographs—similar to the Yosemite photographs before them—are bound up with the imperialist context of their making.

Upon returning to California, Muybridge resumed work with Stanford. But the two had a falling out, and the photographer relocated to Philadelphia to advance his studies of animal movement at the University of Pennsylvania. After years of research and thousands of photographs, Muybridge published his results in an 11-volume book, Animal Locomotion (1887). As he wrote, the book’s 781 plates “comprise more than 20,000 figures of men, women, and children, animals and birds, all actively engaged in walking, galloping, flying, working, playing, fighting, dancing, or other actions incidental to every-day life.”7 He did not mention that his human subjects were local models, athletes, students, and hospital patients, and photographing them nude proved controversial. Moreover, it reinforced stereotypes. Muybridge, the scholar Sarah Gordon has argued, juxtaposed the bodies of men and women, young and old, healthy and unhealthy, in ways that suggest “human hierarchies based on gender and physical ability.”8

Since it first appeared in the late 19th century, Animal Locomotion has found readers ranging from artists to scientists, doctors, and engineers. In this vast compendium of motion, Muybridge captured an astonishing variety of bodies and activities: men throw disks and lay bricks; women jump over stools and open parasols; horses trot, lions stride, and birds soar. “A work for the Art Connoisseur, the Scientist, the Artist and the Student of Art or of Nature,”9 Muybridge declared in an advertisement for his book. Like the photographer himself, Animal Locomotion was big, brash, and irreducible to a single field of knowledge.

Note: Opening quote is from Sarah Gordon, Indecent Exposures: Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion Nudes (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015), 36.

Annemarie Iker, independent scholar, 2023

  1. Edward [Eadweard] J. Muybridge, Patent No. 212,865 (filed 27 June 1878), in Eadweard Muybridge: The Stanford Years, 1872–1882, ed. Anita Ventura Mozley (Palo Alto: Stanford University Museum of Art, 1872), 115.

  2. See Phillip Prodger, Time Stands Still: Muybridge and the Instantaneous Photography Movement (Stanford, CA: The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University in Association with Oxford University Press, 2003).

  3. See Rebecca Solnit, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (New York: Viking, 2003).

  4. Muybridge, The Pacific Coast of Central America and Mexico; The Isthmus of Panama; Guatemala; and the Cultivation and Shipment of Coffee, Illustrated by Muybridge (San Francisco: Edward Bosqui & Co., 1876), 4.

  5. Ibid., 3.

  6. Ibid., 4.

  7. Muybridge, Animal Locomotion: An Electro-Photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movements (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1887), 4.

  8. Sarah Gordon, Indecent Exposures: Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion Nudes (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015), 65.

  9. Muybridge, advertisement for Animal Locomotion (1887).

Wikipedia entry
Eadweard Muybridge (; 9 April 1830 – 8 May 1904, born Edward James Muggeridge) was an English photographer known for his pioneering work in photographic studies of motion, and early work in motion-picture projection. He adopted the first name "Eadweard" as the original Anglo-Saxon form of "Edward", and the surname "Muybridge", believing it to be similarly archaic. A noted photographer in the 19th century American West, he photographed Yosemite, San Francisco, the newly acquired Alaskan Territory, subjects involved in the Modoc War, and lighthouses on the West Coast. He also made his early "moving" picture studies in California. Born in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England, at the age of 20 he immigrated to the United States as a bookseller, first to New York City, then to San Francisco. In 1860, he planned a return trip to Europe, but suffered serious head injuries en route in a stagecoach crash in Texas. He spent the next few years recuperating in Kingston upon Thames, where he took up professional photography, learned the wet-plate collodion process, and secured at least two British patents for his inventions. He returned to San Francisco in 1867, a man with a markedly changed personality. In 1868, he exhibited large photographs of Yosemite Valley, and began selling popular stereographs of his work. In 1874, Muybridge shot and killed Major Harry Larkyns, his wife's lover, but was acquitted, in a controversial jury trial, on the grounds of justifiable homicide. In 1875, he travelled for more than a year in Central America on a photographic expedition. Muybridge is known for his pioneering chronophotography of animal locomotion between 1878 and 1886, which used multiple cameras to capture the different positions in a stride; and for his zoopraxiscope, a device for projecting painted motion pictures from glass discs that predated the flexible perforated film strip used in cinematography. From 1883 to 1886, he entered a very productive period at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, producing over 100,000 images of animals and humans in motion, occasionally capturing what the human eye could not distinguish as separate moments in time. In his later years, Muybridge gave many public lectures and demonstrations of his photography and early motion picture sequences, travelling frequently in England and Europe to publicise his work in cities such as London and Paris. He also edited and published compilations of his work (some of which are still in print today), which greatly influenced visual artists and the developing fields of scientific and industrial photography. He retired to his native England permanently in 1894. In 1904, the year of his death, the Kingston Museum opened in his hometown, and continues to house a substantial collection of his works in a dedicated gallery.
Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Getty record
Eadweard Muybridge was born Edward James Muggeridge but he adopted the Saxon spelling of his name early in his life. Muybridge came to the United States in 1852 where he worked as a publisher and a book-dealer. He returned to England in 1860 and began photographing. By 1867 he returned to California and sold photographic views using the pseudonym "Helios." During this time, he was commissioned by Leland Stanford to study the motion of a trotting horse using photographic methods. Muybridge abandonded the experiments in 1873 while he travelled to Central America, but began them again when he returned in 1877. His experiments with capturing motion using photography became more in-depth as he designed a faster shutter and a technique for using shorter exposures. The resulting photographs allowed him to successfully analyze each individual stage of motion of a horse trotting, and the published photographs earned him a name with the public. He also performed additional experiments using multiple cameras to capture motion, and designed a projecting device for drawings derived from his photographs called a 'zoopraxiscope'. This device allowed him to illustrate how artists in the past had inaccurately represented motion in their paintings and drawings. In 1884, Muybridge began working at the University of Pennsylvania, where he continued his experiments using multiple cameras to study human and animal motion. Many of his photographs were reproduced in his landmark publication 'Animal Locomotion'. Today Muybridge's photographic innovations are considered a precursor to modern motion pictures. British photographer.
American, English, British
Artist, Photographer
Eadweard Muybridge, Helios, Edward James Muggeridge, Muybridge Eadweard J., E. J. Muybridge, Eadweard J. Muybridge, Eduardo Santiago Muybridge
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License


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