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Three ways to look at time

Animating a photograph by Etienne-Jules Marey

About Marey.  In the late 1800s, Etienne-Jules Marey looked for ways to apply the new medium of photography to the new science of physiology. He built cameras that could capture a rapid sequence of images, then focused them on moving people. With his cameras, Marey neatly dissected time and space, revealing the dynamic rhythms of the human body in motion.

Etienne-Jules Marey, Étude chromo photographique de la locomotion humaine, 1886

Marey and Muybridge.  At the same time, on the other side of the globe, Eadweard Muybridge pursued a different method for capturing motion on photographic plates. While Marey devised cameras that captured multiple exposures through a single lens, Muybridge deployed arrays of single-exposure cameras. Both men overcame weighty technical challenges to produce large, useful bodies of work, and each man’s work has its strengths. From a scientific perspective, Marey's photographs are doubtlessly superior. From an artistic perspective, Muybridge's can reasonably be favored.

Marey and Marcel Duchamp.  While Marcel Duchamp was aware of the work of both men, Marey's influence on Duchamp is the most obvious. It is easy to see how Nude Descending a Staircase was influenced by illustrations such as the one shown above, first published by Marey in 1886.

Marey in motion.  What follows are two ways of animating the center illustration above. They were created for Making Sense of Marcel Duchamp but were ultimately spiked.  Continue >>


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