British-born photographer Eadweard Muybridge caught the attention of scientists, artists and animal-lovers alike in 1877, when he photographed the racehorse Occident in mid-gallop. The photograph settled a debate that had gone on for years: whether all four of a galloping horse’s hooves were ever simultaneously in the air. The Occident photograph proved that horses do, for an instant, hover above the ground, and launched Muybridge’s career of biometric photography.
The University of Pennsylvania funded Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion studies, a set of hundreds of series of human and animal movements, captured and arranged in sequence. He photographed the individual motions of a bird flapping its wings, two dogs tussling with a towel, men fencing and a donkey rearing. By freezing these movements in time, Muybridge gave us an opportunity to study and understand animal locomotion in a way we never had before. Look at all these series reveal about the movement of dogs: the bend of their legs at the rise to their feet, the ways they curl their bodies in a game of tug and how they seem sometimes to fly through the air.
Animal locomotion: an electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements, 1872-1885 / By Eadweard Muybridge. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1887, v. 10. Courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library/Rare Books.