Eadweard Muybridge – Inventor, Photographer, Traveller, Murderer..

The Magic Image describes Eadweard Muybridge as an, “Inventor, traveller, photographer, murderer…” he shot and killed his wife’s lover. (1)


Jean Louis Théodore Géricault, The Epsom Derby, 1821, Oil on canvas, 92cm X 122cm

A former governor of California, Leland Stanford, commissioned Muybridge to settle the dispute over whether a trotting horse, ever had all four of its feet off the ground. The artist at the time believed it was an impossible task. (2) With the support of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Muybridge produced over 100,000 images of humans and animals in motion. Muybridge arranged twelve cameras beside the track, “Strings attached to electric switches were stretched across the track; the horse, rushing past, breasted the strings and broke them, one after the other; the shutters were released by an electromagnetic control, and a series of negatives made.” (3)


Eadweard Muybridge, First published in Animal Locomotion in 1887. Collotype.


Horse galloping animated.


Eadweard Muybridge, Plate 766, First published in Animal Locomotion in 1887. Collotype.

The results were astounding and proved that a galloping horse did at some point have all four feet off the ground. But not in the way that Jean Louis Théodore Géricault’s, The Epsom Derby had depicted. Muybridge had captured what the eye alone could not distinguish. The compilations of his studies greatly influenced artists and the advancement of industrial and scientific photography.

His inventiveness “nearly led to the invention, not just of the ‘movies’, but of the ‘talking picture’ itself. (4) The pictures in strips could be viewed in a zoetrope, which twirled the images, merging them so quickly that it produced the illusion of motion. In 1880 he projected his pictures onto a screen at the California School of Fine Arts, using a device he invented called a zoogyroscope. 


Zoetrope advertisement.


1. C Beaton, G Buckland, The Magic Image, Little, Brown & Company, 1975, p. 76.

2. B Newhall, The History of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1982, p. 119.

3. ibid.

4. A Scharf, Pioneers of Photography, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1975, p. 141.


Vultures flying http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Animal_locomotion._Plate_766_(Boston_Public_Library).jpg

Jean Louis Théodore Géricault file:///Users/skontos/Desktop/File:Théodore%20Géricault%20-%20The%20Epsom%20Derby%20-%20WGA08637.jpg%20-%20Wikipedia,%20the%20free%20encyclopedia.webarchive

Horse jumping http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Muybridge_horse_jumping_1.jpg

Horse galloping animated http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Muybridge_horse_gallop_animated.gif

Zoetrope advertisement http://www.thebigcamera.com.au/Zoetrope.html



6 thoughts on “Eadweard Muybridge – Inventor, Photographer, Traveller, Murderer..

  1. Thank you. It’s well worth looking to Muybridge for so much of our visual culture. That he had the idea of turning the parlour experience of the Zoetrope into a public showing had sociological consequences we still experience today; despite our addiction to the mostly solitary amusement of YouTube, there’s still real delight in being amongst a cinema audience to see a good film.

      • Hi Sandra, inspired by your entry on Muybridge, over on my blog http://wp.me/p1ZU6J-aJ I’ve made some links (fairly oblique and tenuous I admit) between him and Duchamp to get to Savitry, a little known Paris photographer and contemporary of Doisneau and Cartier-Bresson. You might find him intriguing, as I do, and warranting more attention.

      • Hi James,

        ty so much for sharing your blog, i’m excited to read your entries & draw from extensive reading list.

        i am currently studying my MFA at COFA in sydney & my little blog is an extension of my research.

        i truly appreciate your thoughtful comments & the artists & writers you mention, you certainly expand my thinking..


  2. I remember looking at Muybridge’s men and women when I was trying my hand at 3d animation some eons ago. I think all animators do at some point.

    PS. Kudos on the murder.

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