The work, which eventually ran to over 100,000 images, was carried out as research for the University of Pennsylvania between 1884 and 1887 and documents a series of human and animal subjects, each carrying out a single action.
The sequential pictures would become Muybridge’s artistic trademark but they also contributed to wider biological science, specifically to an understanding of the movement of the body.
Muybridge’s many subjects are depicted doing a number of mundane activities, such as walking down stairs, lifting up a skirt, or jumping over a stool, as well as engaging in more athletic pursuits, from boxing to wrestling, horse-riding and fencing.
His work also furthered an understanding of the physiology of the animal world, with sequences capturing a bird’s wings in flight and, most famously, revealing what happens to a horse’s legs when running at a gallop. In 1872 Muybridge was able to prove that, for a split second, all four legs are off the ground.
Muybridge was born in Kingston-upon-Thames in London in 1830 but emigrated to America when he was 20.
While he is thought to have taken up photography while recovering after an accident back in Britain, he made his name as a photographic artist when he returned to the US – firstly as a landscape photographer, then as a government war photographer, before working with a series of multiple cameras that could be triggered by trip wires to produce ground-breaking sequential images.
The new exhibition will present 65 collotypes prints made by Muybridge in 1887 for the Animal Locomotion project.
Eadweard Muybridge: Animal Locomotion runs from July 19 to September 2 at the Beetles + Huxley gallery, 3-5 Swallow Street, London W1B 4DE. See beetlesandhuxley.com