Animals in Motion

Eadward Muybridge: The Gallop

by Elliot Cruddas

For part of AD 1007, a presentation had to be made for a certain time period within the short history of photography. The group I was within had been given the years 1861-1880. Photography had been around since 1839 with Daguerre and Talbot introducing there photographic methods. The Daguerreotype on 7 January and Photogenic Drawing introduced on 25 January ( /1_early/ 1_ early _ photography _-_1839.htm). These two methods allowed for photography to develop into what it is today.
The American Civil War was taking place being one of the main events occurring during 61-80. In addition to this, photography was starting to attract attention from the public eye, in some cases replacing art and painting its self. This was due to the technical advances with cameras and printing the negatives. These included Cameras becoming more user friendly with wet plate processing, shorter exposure times due to more sensitive negatives and printing equipment. The main Technical advance in this time period was the creation of colour printing. As well as the techniques being created, the way photography was being used also started to develop. Not only was it used for portraits, it also started to be used to show situations of living conditions within the slums of London, with John Tomson and “The Crawlers”. It was also being used for scientific advances with Eadward Muybridge and showing the bio-mechanics of how people and animals move. This was the photographer I set out to focus on within the presentation and within this essay.
Muybridge, originally called Edward James Muggeridge was born at Kingston-on-Thames on April 9th 1830. (http://www.masters-of- /M/Muybridge/ Muybridge_ articles1.html) Starting out as a photographer taking photographs of San Francisco Muybridge’s reputation began to grow around the USA till eventually in 1872, Leland Stanford Hired Muybridge to settle a question: Is there a point when a horse’s full gallop allows all its hooves to be off the ground?

The image that was chosen to be shown in the presentation consists of 22 photographs placed together to show how the horse moves when it gallops. Taken at the University of Pennsylvania in 1878 over 100,000 wet plate prints (source: Animals in Motion: Eadward Muybridge, 1957 Dover publication edition front cover) had been developed showing not only how a horse moves but how many other mammals move including people. Naturally more than one camera was used to develop this presentation of movement. In fact around 50 cameras were used showing movement from 2 main directions. The main view was from 90° of the horse, the other was from behind or in front of subject with the final position being at 60° of the target. The aperture of the shot would have been very high as the shutter speed was around 1/2000th a second to make the subject still and prevent blurring of it. The series of images show the horse covering 7 meters and thus show the horse with its hooves off the ground. I feel the 3rd image shows this the most effectively. The simple set up makes this appear to be more for scientific approach rather than artistic viewpoint, this is true and I feel show photography can be used more for then just art. The horse in every shot is always in the centre of the frame not following the “Rule of Thirds” within photography. However this must have been planned so the whole subject matter is in the picture. When looking at these photographs as a collective, the viewer is drawn to the top left, where the series starts. From an artistic point of view, it could be argued that the horse is representing still life in different stages of development; however this could have been justified if the shutter speeds were slower and thus more blurred, along with a back ground and not the white board with measurements along it. An interesting point is that none of the photographs with in the series overlap, trying to show them as a still frame at a time rather than a continuous shot of the horse. As this was for scientific reasons the only things visible are the horse and the rider; however the rider could be classed as a distraction from the horse itself as the subject. This could be due to horse not moving the plotted direction unless guided with a rider. The border around the photographs, like the actual photographs, is very simple, not invading the viewers vision and distracting from the main subject also increasing the argument that this was done for science and not art. I do feel with its current set up however that there are 2 photographs missing from the bottom set, this could have been to errors occurring with taking the photo or even developing it. The cameras were trigged by the horse moving past using trip wires; the horse could have missed some. Muybridge could have done this purposefully as the prints were too crammed together with 24 prints in one presentation.
As a summary of this set of photographs it shows how photography can be used for more than just taking “pretty photographs”. In my opinion I prefer images and photographs like these as it shows how photography can be used to show the truth, when it’s to show identify places or even scientific experiments. In addition to this, Muybridge’s work showed the world new information and was the start of biomechanics with animals and people, which can be linked to today’s technology with the invention of prosthetic limbs including animation and CGI. I also feel that Muybridge’s work is most renown due to how much it showed with a simple set up and using photography.
Photography has more of a truth element then paintings as in the start of photography editing was near impossible and thus making photography true, as it is used with crime cases E.g. security cameras. Muybridge used his knowledge of photography to show the truth of how a horse moves. Since his work, not much new information has been found out apart from technical information about which muscles move. In my opinion, Muybridge’s work will last forever as one of the most influential pieces of work within the birth of photograph.


Animals in Motion: Eadward Muybridge, 1957 Dover publication edition. Edited by Lewis S.Brown early _ photography_-_1839.htm articles1.html

Image source: Animals in Motion: Eadward Muybridge, 1957 Dover publication edition. Edited by Lewis S.Brown


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