“Muybridge trapped secrets so fundamental to modern experience that all subsequent generations have considered him theirs, if never in quite the same way.” — David Campany
The photography of Eadweard Muybridge has had a profound and enduring impact on many fields including fine art, medicine, athletics, computer generated special effects, horseracing, even industrial manufacturing and nuclear physics. A small list of those influenced by Muybridge includes:
The American painter and close associate of Muybridge incorporated the study of anatomy into his curriculum at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts after viewing Muybridge’s motion studies and used some of those photographs as models in his own painting. He was instrumental in lobbying the University of Pennsylvania to create a position for Muybridge, where he produced his late-career motion studies.
When Leland Stanford first showed him Muybridge’s horse-in-motion photographs, the famed French painter realized that he (and all other artists) had misrepresented a horse’s gallop. “How! All these years my eyes have deceived me?” To which Stanford replied, “The machine cannot lie.” “Never shall I again touch a brush!” declared the Frenchman. Meissonier did continue painting, including reworking his famous piece 1807, Friedland, based on Muybridge’s images. He also painted a portrait of Leland Stanford in which a book of Muybridge’s images peeks out from under the railroad magnate’s arm. Messonier later hosted the Paris art world’s creme de la creme at a reception honoring Muybridge.
The French artist’s masterpiece “Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2” was strongly influenced by Muybridge’s “Nude Descending Stairs,” from his Philadelphia human locomotion studies.
The French artist studied Muybridge’s photos of horses and dancers to instill more accuracy into his paintings and sculptures.
The early innovator of scientific management used Muybridge’s photographs to help him design more efficient assembly lines in the early 20th-century.
Growing up in Kansas City, the budding animator checked out three books from the Kansas City Public Library, two of which were by Muybridge, “The Human Figure in Motion” and “Animals in Motion.” Muybridge’s books were used as standard reference texts by Disney’s animators.
The British painter wrote, “My principal source of visual information is Muybridge, the 19th century photographer who photographed human and animal movement. His work is unbelievably precise. He created a visual dictionary of movement, a living dictionary.” After Bacon’s death, a whole room full of paint stained, torn and crumpled reproductions of Muybridge’s work was found in his London studio.
The minimalist artist credited Muybridge as a major influence, incorporating the grids and geometric patterns that Muybridge used into his own art.
The American pop artist’s signature style of altering repeated photographic images was directly influenced by Muybridge. In fact, he created a humorous homage to Muybridge called “the Locomotion of Bananas.”
The celebrated artist is a longtime admirer of Muybridge and purchased The Human Figure in Motion at the beginning of his career. “(Muybridge’s) books were such an incredible repository of images for artists to use,” Hockney says. “Every art school had a copy of The Human Figure in Motion.”
Rock and Roll Icons
In 1966, the British Rock and Roll band The Yardbirds performed on French Television in front of a backdrop of Plate 263 from the Muybridge University of Pennsylvania Motion Studies. In 1993, the Irish rock band released the single “Lemon.” The song’s lyrics and accompanying video contain many references to Muybridge.
In 1983 the avant garde American composer wrote and produced “The Photographer,” an opera about Muybridge’s life.
Starting in the late 1970s, conceptual photographer Tim MacMillan blazed a trail for a generation of artists to rediscover Muybridge’s techniques and employ them in modern ways. Among them was John Gaeta, a special effects animator, who cites Muybridge as the inspiration behind the breakthrough bullet time effects he invented for use in the science fiction film The Matrix.
The Nobel Prize winning chemist, known as the ‘father of femtochemistry’ or the study of ultrafast chemical reactions, routinely credited Muybridge as the first high speed photographer and godfather of his own field.
International Society of Biomechanics
The International Society of Biomechanics, a professional organization dedicated to the study of the science of movement, named its biennial award for career achievement in honor of Muybridge. Muybridge’s motion photography conducted at the University of Pennsylvania has been critical to the understanding and treatment of pathological gaits.
Horse in Motion Tattoo Project
In 2011, artist Evan Hawkins created a living GIF of Muybridge’s work by having single images of the iconic Sallie Gardner at a Gallop tattooed on 11 different people.
Rick and Morty
The smash hit cartoon (the most popular TV show among adults 18-34) has paid homage to Muybridge by drawing an image of his sequence Annie G. with Jockey (Plate 626 from Animal Locomotion) in the background in several episodes, especially in scenes referencing the freezing and unfreezing of time.
In 2017, Harvard synthetic biologist Seth Shipman managed to encode a GIF of Annie G. with Jockey in the living DNA of bacteria. Shipman’s goal is to develop a way to use DNA as a ‘living recorder’ with vast applications from environmental monitoring to neuroscience to information storage. “We thought it was fitting for our first proof-of-concept work to be a homage to Muybridge,” Shipman says.