August 7, 1892 [The Zoopraxiscope, continued]

Muybridge continues to entice us toward his contraption. The pleasure of watching moving pictures is still for me only vaguely definable, but continues irresistible; however, after a decade of horses and painted birds in flight, Muybridge arrives at startlingly unadorned expositions of the human form, and the impression is both beautiful and unnerving. I know the artist's purview includes a close examination of the body, whether with paintbrush or camera. But as a moving object it becomes a personal affair—and I don't mean it becomes a matter of modesty, or embarrassment, or even morality (perhaps); no, something intimate is happening between the viewer and the nude figure, a private display that forces me to look and capture the moving image for myself. I am laying claim to it with a proprietary eye that marks my control over the image.

—And yet, just at that moment of ownership I am denied my claim. The woman—or child, or young man throwing a ball—may not gaze back at me, but I know that they, too, can see, and that they know they are being watched. I am rescued from guilt (aha! morality does assert itself, after all) only by my anonymity—and even this troubles me. If I'm to continue watching, I must do so with the dubious virtues of passivity, allowing the images their separate reality—while at the same time insinuating myself into them, almost secretly. I'm not yet certain how much of myself, or of those I observe, must be sacrificed in this—what? exchange? surrender?—but I will continue, as much as I may risk.


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