History of cinema 13 special – the horse story

British photographer EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE emigrated to the United States in the 1850s. He was a photographer of modest means and became well know locally in California.

Leland Stanford, the Governor of California, was a betting man. He loved horse racing, gambling and being correct. He made a bet based on a centuries old conundrum: are all four of a horse’s hooves off the ground at the same time.

Knowing of Muybridge, the Governor gave him a visit and explained his bet. Would the photographer be able to solve this riddle once and for all? Muybridge felt he could.

Occident the horse

In 1873 Muybridge took 24 photos of Occident the horse in quick succession. The photographer pioneered instantaneous photography, using tripwires to quickly activate a battery of twelve cameras. He used a zoopraxiscope to project the photos as a strip.


The strip did indeed show all four hooves off the ground at the same time. The Governor won the bet and Muybridge gained notoriety.

Stanford University wanted the photos of the horse and new photos. Muybridge remade the photos of Occident in 1877 as Stanford felt the originals were too small and fuzzy. He used 24 cameras and created six sets of images.

His work grew in fame and scientific significance. He was given an exhibition in 1879. Muybridge took 100,000 images between 1883-1886 at the University of Pennsylvania. 700 sequences were made at the university including boxing, walking, walking downstairs, and throwing water.

His work began to explore the concept of Motion and Stop Motion. Not only did this lead to hundreds of inventions and new concepts building one on top of another, it led to new art forms, new ways of thinking about time, reality, and the world around us.

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