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Children's Nonfiction General

Muybridge and the Riddle of Locomotion

by (author) Marta Braun

Firefly Books
Initial publish date
Sep 2013
General, General, Photography
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2013
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 18
  • Grade: 4 to 12


Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1900) is famous for his invention of very fast photography, and his discovery of how animals and people run. Born in England, he moved to California during the gold rush boom, became a celebrated landscape photographer, and then studied "Animals in Motion" and "The Human Figure in Motion".

For more than a century people have marveled at his series of "Locomotion" images, which depict horses, cats and people moving in their natural instinctive ways. He was able to show the specific elements of our motion, so that they can be studied and understood. Most of us have seen Muybridge images on "lenticular" postcards -- 2, 3 or even 4 printed images under grooved plastic, that seem to "move" as they are tilted at different angles.

Muybridge and the Riddle of Locomotion uses a unique combination of words, printed reproductions of Muybridge's classic photos and lenticular images on the cover and on the book's pages, to concisely tell the history of these discoveries in the early years of photography.

The lenticular images contained in the book -- of a man, a horse, a cat and more -- will thrill and intrigue young readers, firstly by the "magic" of lenticular images and their suggested motion, and also the true history of an enigmatic genius who invented fast photography and opened the door to the invention of movies.

About the author

Marta Braun is an internationally known historian of locomotion photography and the beginning of motion pictures. She teaches at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Marta Braun's profile page

Editorial Reviews

A short but well-focused presentation on Muybridge, who earned a place in the history of photography and cinematography.


Lenticular plates add an appropriately eye-catching gimmick to this quick profile of the 19th-century photographer whose sequential photographs of a horse galloping established that during its stride, all four hooves left the ground...The full sets of stills from which the plates are drawn along with sequences of other characteristic subjects--from the galloping horse that first made him famous to a flying bird and a winsome child picking up a doll--are included too.... [Braun's] account of Muybridge's career and achievements offer a clearer sense of why his photos are still worth studying for what they reveal about animal and human movement. Not to mention that they're entertaining to pore over. As he regularly rates mention in histories of early filmmaking but almost never anywhere else, his work may be new to young readers and viewers... A rare glimpse of a historically significant visual artist who also plainly had a well-developed sense of fun.

Kirkus Books Reviews

Those fascinated with technical innovations and who want to learn more...will want to pick up Muybridge and the Riddle of Locomotion by Marta Braun. Braun, a historian who specializes in the origins of motion pictures, explains the significance of Muybridge's fast photography. Starting with his discovery and documentation of how animals and people run, Braun uses accessible language, reproductions of classic Muybridge photos and lenticular pictures (ones which appear to move, as if by magic, on the pages of the book) to highlight concepts Muybridge made it possible for us all to see.

Georgia Times-Union

For artists and illustrators, Eadweard Muybridge changed everything. The photographic work he did in the early days of photography helped us understand ourselves better, not to mention the world around us. Finally, through the amazing still photographs he took in series -- horses at high speed, people walking, running, boxing, riding -- were mysteries solved in viewing his photos. Questions people had always asked were answered conclusively. Later he would invent the Zoopraxiscope, his projecting magic lantern so people could view the results of his experiments: moving pictures! Marta Braun has captured all of this beautifully in a book appropriate for kids nine and up. (But adults will enjoy it, too!)

January Magazine

Muybridge was a 19th-century British photographer best known for his photos of a horse. Leland Standford, a California racehorse breeder, felt that a better understanding of how a horses run would serve trainers, and the animals. Standford commissioned Muybridge to take rapid, successive photos of his racer, Sally G; people were specifically interested to know if at any moment during a race all four legs were off the ground (a bet was involved). Since high-speed photography had yet to be invented, Muybridge set up a series of cameras to snap images a tenth of a second apart. In addition to answering the question, the photos and similar experiments that followed allowed people to study animal and human locomotion. Braun explains Muybridge's efforts in clear terms, and, as she relates, his images led to experimentation with high-speed photography, ultimately resulting in the invention of movies. This slim volume has black-and-white reproductions of Muybridge's sequential photos, as well as four lenticular images that operate like animations. The latter will thrill kids, and while they suggest the photographer'the extent of it. Muybridge had a long career and took thousands of pictures; this book presents a sliver of his oeuvre and a moment in the history of photography, but they are an important sliver and an important moment.

School Library Journal

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