“Horse in Motion, 1878”
Eadward Muybridge, who was born on this date in 1830, had quite the life. An Englishman who emigrated to the States in 1850, at the age of 20, he worked as a publisher and bookseller in California, and he likely would have remained as such had it not been for a stage coach accident in Texas in 1860. Flung from the vehicle and hitting his head on a rock, Muybridge was taken to Arkansas for treatment following the accident, and it was there that he was introduced to photographer, a hobby that became his legacy. (Which is good, because otherwise he might be remembered for murdering his wife’s lover in 1874, a crime for which he was acquitted.)
Some of his first images were of the American West, including Yosemite, which caught the attention of California Governor Leland Stanford, who asked Muybridge to photograph his prize-winning horses. Muybridge readily agreed, embarking on a project that he hoped would answer the age-old question: does a running horse ever get completely airborne? (Above)
Taking a rapid succession of shots, Muybridge showed that, yes, horses did indeed remain airborne; he also realized that motion could be captured among humans, too, capturing the images below and inspiring and inventors, most notably Thomas Edison, who used Muybridge’s work as a springboard to develop motion pictures.
Muybridge died in 1904, back in mother England, but his artistic and technical impact remain world-changing even today: without Muybridge we wouldn’t have Black Panther, after all.
After the jump, four more early Muybridge images capturing motion in action.