October 4, 1879 [The Zoopraxiscope]

It was a moment when simple inquiry—here, about a horse—merged with obsession. Eadweard Muybridge presented his Zoopraxiscope, and the spinning glass disk exerted a kind of mesmerism. I had seen his photographs of Yosemite at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, but these did not prepare me for his slightly mad conviction: for him, the meticulous image-captures of the Zoopraxiscope seemed a vindication for some unnamed transgression (of his own?) against a fundamental truth of seeing, one that should never have been doubted;but there is a beauty to the effect I cannot deny, as well as a wariness that rises in me, until I suspect I also have somehow overstepped.

While the images were captured simply to prove an equestrian point, the result reaches farther than the question of whether a trotting horse's four hooves at any point simultaneously leave the ground. Muybridge's twenty-four electrically triggered photographs define a single motion, and of course every time I watched the sequence it was the same; it was I who changed, in my eagerness to see the simple action again and again, the disk spinning, its regular clicking whir almost an apology for bringing a horse into the parlor, a new sound for a new figure.


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