Heaving a 75-lb. rock

Eadweard Muybridge1887

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Eadweard Muybridge was hired in 1872 to provide photographic proof that all four hooves of Leland Stanford’s famous racehorse Occident left the ground at the same time, but his first attempts showed little more than the blurred silhouette of a horse passing his shutter. Four years later, in consultation with Stanford, he developed the idea of a series of cameras that would capture movement in successive images. Muybridge lined a section of the racecourse with a bank of 12 cameras arranged side by side at one-foot intervals that would be triggered by tripwires laid across the ground. As the horse’s hooves made contact with each wire as it moved past, the cords pulled open the shutter of each camera in sequence.

Muybridge publicized his invention on a European tour in 1881, lecturing and showcasing his publication The Attitudes of Animals in Motion. While in Paris, he met Étienne-Jules Marey, who asked whether the cameras could photograph birds in flight as well, which they could not. While Marey went on to develop his chronophotographic gun, Muybridge returned home to improve his multiple-camera system. He established a studio at the University of Pennsylvania equipped with 24 cameras, where he proceeded to make more than 100,000 photographs of humans and animals in motion.

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  • Title: Heaving a 75-lb. rock
  • Creator: Eadweard Muybridge
  • Date: 1887
  • Physical Dimensions: w58.4 x h45.7 cm (sheet)
  • Type: Photographs
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Collotype
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase