Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer


Dir. Thom Andersen, 16mm Color and B/W Sound 01:00:00

Page Contents


EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE, ZOOPRAZOGRAPHER remains the definitive documentary about the full range of Muybridge’s career, not only as a cinematic precursor, but as a pioneering landscape and ethnographic photographer of the 19th century. A fascinatingly erudite exploration of Muybridge’s work in relation to 19th century positivism, the philosophical dilemma of Zeno’s Paradox and prephotographic understandings of physiology and bodily locomotion.

[Source: Los Angeles FilmForum Program Notes]

If the film seems born fully-formed, this is in no small part due to intensive pre-conceptualization. Writing first in the pages of Film Culture in 1966, Andersen established the framework which would ultimately inform the completed work before it materialized. Its practical realization began soon thereafter as a UCLA thesis film in which he meticulously re-photographed more than 3,000 of Muybridge’s images. While historiographic efforts to reanimate these studies trace to at least J. Stuart Blackton’s THE FILM PARADE in 1932, the exercise was in this case just a launching pad. Working in collaboration with prominent artists and scholars including filmmaker Morgan Fisher (who helped edit the final work), composer Mike Cohen, Muybridge biographer Robert Bartlett Haas, and narrator Dean Stockwell, Anderson took the visual idea as raw material and expanded it into a profound meditation on the nature of vision. The “zoopraxography” of the title speaks to both Muybridge’s practice of motion study--as distinct from photography--and his 1879 device, which enabled the images’ projection. As such, it foregrounds Muybridge’s role in the invention of cinema, and cinema itself as an illusion arising from stillness.

[Source: UCLA Film & Television Archive]

Other Credits

Narrator: Dean Stockwell