Freeze Frame: Eadweard Muybridge's Photography Of Motion
xpatriate Englishman Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904), a brilliant and eccentric photographer, gained worldwide fame photographing animal and human movement imperceptible to the human eye. Hired by railroad baron Leland Stanford in 1872, Muybridge used photography to prove that there was a moment in a horse’s gallop when all four hooves were off the ground at once. He spent much of his later career at the University of Pennsylvania, producing thousands of images that capture progressive movements within fractions of a second.
Freeze Frame explores the famous photographs of animal and human locomotion that Muybridge made at the University of Pennsylvania between 1884 and 1887. For 100 years, historians considered these photographs to be scientific studies of the body in motion. The Museum’s collection of Muybridge’s working proofs, however, suggests a more complex interpretation. The proofs, never before exhibited, were recently rediscovered and are shown here for the first time.
Science or Art—or Both?
Although Eadweard Muybridge thought of himself primarily as an artist, he encouraged the aura of scientific investigation that surrounded his project at the University of Pennsylvania. Published in 1887 as Animal Locomotion, the 781 finished prints certainly look scientific, and historically, most viewers have accepted them as reliable scientific studies of movement. The recent rediscovery of Muybridge’s working proofs, however, demonstrates that he freely edited his images to achieve these final results. How does this change our idea of his photography?