A Leap Day lesson: groundbreaking vintage photography featuring some dapperly dressed leapfrogging dudes makes up for an extra short month. (Losing yourself in a giant lasagna also helps, if you can swing it.)
The fine leaping fellas starring in our new Vintage Edition are more than just joy-seekers. Animal Locomotion: Plate 169 (Leapfrog) is one of the 100,000+ movement-based images photographer Eadweard Muybridge created between 1883 and 1886. That series culminated in Muybridge’s pioneering 1887 portfolio collection, Animal Locomotion: an Electro-Photographic Investigation of Connective Phases of Animal Movements. Volume VII, from which we plucked Plate 169 (Leapfrog), is stacked with images of men and women wearing various types of clothing and costume, in a variety of active states—jumping, dancing, walking etc. While much of Muybridge’s work contributed to the study of biomechanics and athletics, images like Plate 169 (Leapfrog) were (and still are!) used as key references for artists and animators.
The sleek edge of the leaper’s hat, its brim subtly distinguished by a lick of light; the two sharp suits and slim pant legs; the walking figure’s tucked, tight form—there’s a lot about this image that feels deliberately clean and considered, bold and striking, beyond purely scientific study. The eerie hovering body in the second and third slides and the ghostly strangeness of the silhouetted limbs against the backdrop in the bottommost scenes are also conspicuously artistic. You might spot stylistic hints of Nouvelle Vague Cinema, 70 years ahead of its time.
What began as a commissioned project to conclude—via photographic evidence—whether all four of a horse’s hooves leave the ground during a gallop, evolved into a stop-motion survey of hundreds of animals and people and a deeply artistic body of work. In the process, Muybridge cemented himself as the Father of the Motion Picture, a leader in understanding human and animal locomotion, photographing motion, and motion-picture projection. In building out our collection of limited-edition Muybridge prints, we’ve written more about what makes his work so cool. Which leads to an important point: there’s loads more Muybridge to discover on our site.
Two lords a’ leaping not your thing? How ‘bout elk, birds, elephants, spotted cats, or fancy dancing ladies? There’s even a sloth in the mix. Leap Day feels a lot less like the short end of the stick when you take it as your cue to appreciate the beauty of movement alongside some momentous science-meets-art history.
With art for everyone,