Marey, a physiologist, had been studying motion for two decades when the work of the American photographer Eadweard Muybridge led him to try photography in 1881. Unlike Muybridge, who used a battery of cameras to make a sequence of separate frames (like the frames in a movie), Marey recorded the successive phases of motion on single plate. Thus, his studies at once analyze motion and present a virtual image of its course.
Photography has radically enhanced our ability to study the world around us (and the skies beyond) by making visible what once had been too distant, too small, too fast, or otherwise too difficult to see. Many such pictures were made in the service of science, but their impact often has been much broader than their original scientific function. The influence of Marey's pictures on the Futurist painters, such as Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini, who sought to evoke dynamic motion in their work, is only the most familiar example.
Demenÿ worked as Marey's assistant from 1881 to 1893 and then applied Marey's method to the physical training program of the French army. This picture, whose successive exposures were timed to match the strides of the runner, may have been made by him.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 25.