Eadweard Muybridge


When a horse is running or trotting, do all four hooves ever leave the ground at the same time?

California Governor Leland Stanford offered landscape photographer Eadweard Muybridge $25,000 in 1872 to answer this question. Muybridge invented a fast shutter mechanism that relied on a small piece of wood with a hole drilled into it that slid past the lens. The wood was positioned such that a pin held it in place covering the lens. When the pin was removed, gravity would cause the wood to drop and as the hole moved past the lens, the film was exposed for a fraction of a second. He then used two pieces of wood and slipped them past each other so quickly that he had achieved an exposure time of about 1/500th of a second. Over time he would get it down to an exposure time to less than 1/2000th of a second. In 1878, he finally achieved his results with a sequence of 12 images that clearly showed that all four of the horse’s hooves were off the ground at the same time. Later on he would invent a device with counter-rotating discs that projected the images sequentially called a Zoöpraxiscope.


Matthew Brady

Mathew B. Brady (May 18, 1822 – January 15, 1896) was one of the first American photographers. He studied under inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, who pioneered the daguerreotype technique in America. Brady opened his own studio in New York in 1844, and photographed Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams, among other celebrities. When the Civil War started, his use of a mobile studio and darkroom enabled vivid battlefield photographs that brought home the reality of war to the public.  The thousands of photographs which Mathew Brady’s photographers (such as Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan) took have become the most important visual documentation of the Civil War, and have helped historians and the public better understand the era – wikipedia

I’ve always loved looking at some of these old portraits of historic figures of the past. In the early days of photography, Matthew Brady had a simple “shutter”. When they were ready to expose the film, they simply removed the lens cap by hand and then put it back on after a predetermined length of time. Since the photographic plates used in those days were not very sensitive, exposures of five or ten minutes were common. – NYIP

photos by Matthew Brady