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It's About Time



Picturing Time
Eadweard Muybridge<br><i>Animal Locomotion, plate 640</i>, 1887<br>Collotype<br>Minneapolis Institute of Arts<br>Gift of Samuel C. Gale, William H. Hinkle, Albert Loring, Charles M. Loring, Charles J. Martin, and Charles Alfred Pillsbury
zoom Eadweard Muybridge
Animal Locomotion, plate 640, 1887
Collotype
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Gift of Samuel C. Gale, William H. Hinkle, Albert Loring, Charles M. Loring, Charles J. Martin, and Charles Alfred Pillsbury

 

Eadweard Muybridge, a celebrated landscape photographer, was asked to use his talents to settle an ongoing debate in the horse-racing world. The long-standing question was Does a galloping horse ever have all four feet off the ground at once? Not only did Muybridge’s photographs reveal the answer, but the techniques and inventions he developed changed the world of photography and made him the “father” of the motion picture. However, for Muybridge to show time in motion, he had to stop it first.

With a horse named Occident, Muybridge began trying out various ways of capturing the horse in action. In the beginning, he stretched thin threads across a racetrack and attached them to the shutters of twelve cameras. As Occident broke through each string, the camera instantly snapped a picture. Although the images were less than perfect, they clearly showed Occident with all four feet off the ground. With the argument settled, Muybridge continued to improve his technique, called the “instantaneous” photograph. He later combined twenty-four cameras and an automatic timer to take pictures in rapid sequence from the front, side, and rear.

Over time Muybridge photographed animals of all kinds and also men, women, and children, capturing their bodies in action. Muybridge’s work gave scientists a better understanding of human and animal locomotion (movements). It served as a reference for painters and sculptors. And eventually it led to the invention of the motion picture.

Stopping time had been the first step in the creation of the motion picture. Using his own invention, the Zoopraxiscope, Muybridge could show a series of his “instantaneous” images in rapid succession. When shown in a short repeated loop, the images appeared to be in motion. The motion picture was born.


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1. This set of “instantaneous” photographs captures “Ruth” the mule in action.
Eadweard Muybridge”Ruth,” the Mule, Kicking, 1887, Collotype, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Samuel C. Gale, William H. Hinkle, Albert Loring, Charles M. Loring, Charles J. Martin, and Charles Alfred Pillsbury
2. Cameras placed at three different locations—front, side, and rear—capture the movements of this tennis player.
Eadweard Muybridge,Animal Locomotion Plate 298, 1887, Collotype, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Samuel C. Gale, William H. Hinkle, Albert Loring, Charles M. Loring, Charles J. Martin, and Charles Alfred Pillsbury
3. Muybridge photographed all kinds of animals in motion, including this bird taking flight.
Eadweard Muybridge, Animal Locomotion Plate 730, 1887, Collotype, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Samuel C. Gale, William H. Hinkle, Albert Loring, Charles M. Loring, Charles J. Martin, and Charles Alfred Pillsbury

 

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December 2007