Eadweard Muybridge 18301904

Albumen silver print, 1872

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; gift of Larry J. West

Eadweard Muybridge is seated in this self-portrait at the base of the famous “General Grant” sequoia tree. Having obtained a mammoth-plate camera in 1872, Muybridge spent the summer creating a series of photographs of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove that might rival those by Carleton Watkins.

Like his photographic colleague, Muybridge immigrated to California during the gold rush. There, he took up photography as a profession and earned a reputation for his panoramic cityscapes and for his views of the California landscape.

In 1872, railroad magnate Leland Stanford approached Muybridge for help in settling a $25,000 wager about whether a trotting horse ever had all four hooves off the ground. The challenge of photographing a horse in motion fascinated Muybridge and inspired him to conduct further experiments photographing individuals and animals in motion. These studies—and the different machines he devised—are recognized as forerunners of modern motion picture technology.