Animal Locomotion: Reanimating Muybridge’s 19th Century Illustrations with GIFs
The 19th century photographs by Eadweard Muybridge captured something that had previously been too fleeting for the human eye: the mechanics of animal locomotion.
In his 1893 book Descriptive Zoopraxography, or the Science of Animal Locomotion Made Popular, Muybridge described his most famous animal locomotion capture of a horse. The series of photographs aimed to settle a dispute over “the possibility of a horse having all of his feet free of contact with the ground at the same instant, while trotting, even at a high rate of speed.” The photographs revealed conclusively for the first time that a horse’s feet do indeed leave the ground all at once while in full gallop, the horse pulling its legs briefly underneath itself before sprinting forward.
Muybridge’s animal locomotion studies were a great success and he traveled around showing the horse and other creatures in motion through his “zoopaxiscope” that brought the series of frozen images to life in a sort of early stop motion movie projector. Collected in the Descriptive Zoopraxography book are some of these images, which were traced from his original photogravures. While you might not have a zoopaxiscope handy to reanimate the animals, we do have the magic of animated GIFs.
For many more of Muybridge’s dizzying GIFs, keep reading Animal Locomotion: Reanimating Muybridge’s 19th Century Illustrations with GIFs on Atlas Obscura…