To celebrate the 186th birthday of Eadweard Muybridge, we whipped up a special deal and reached out to an expert for his insights on the artist. This weekend only, take 20% off all Muybridge with the code LOCOMOTION. Read on to learn about Muybridge from the mouth of Dennis Keeley, chair of the Photography and Imaging Program at Art Center in Pasadena.
I remember the first time I saw an Eadweard Muybridge photograph. I was around eight years old, and it was the famous image of the galloping horse. I didn’t understand what was going on in that picture, or photography, or even the power that an image can have, but I remember looking at it again and again. I didn’t know then that there was even a profession of photography, but once I reached college and was reintroduced to Muybridge’s work in my History of Photography class, it was like an atomic bomb went off. Like Oppenheimer, Muybridge took on the most simple properties of his subject and both amplified and expanded the world’s reality and cultural expectations.
Muybridge can be seen as a part of history, but it is easily forgotten that history is just a story. The people who make history aren’t so different from everyone else, but they have a quality of “otherness,” or mystery that defines their lives or work. They actually make their history outside of the standard definitions, often without ever knowing that their story would later be told as legend.
What makes us look at a picture twice? And what makes us actually want to own a picture? It is the expression of meaning that is framed, and the questions that a picture can pose to the viewer. A picture that makes us think is an object that speaks to us, and making history is not always a quick or easy read of the superficial picture plane.
Muybridge’s work addressed assumptions about time and motion and showed how things really worked. For us, his work should remind us to be inquisitive and continue to wonder about the world of this time. Muybridge was an artist, a photographer and an inventor. He was fascinated by the photographic circumstance and was as interested in the processes, the investigations and the discoveries of what he could learn.
The world learned how to re-see the world through his eyes. In the words of Roland Barthes, “photographs are inanimate, but instead they animate us.” Photographs make us think. They make us consider our existence, our connection with condition and circumstance, and most importantly, our consciousness. They invite thought. I’ve never seen one of Muybridge's photographs that didn’t make me think.
Years later, with all that I have learned about photography, about Muybridge and his curious nature, his temperament and the events of his life, his pictures never fail to remind me of my own childhood and fascination with the world, the invention of photography and the power of questions, curiosity, discovery, creation, and the miracle of thought itself.
With art for everyone,