Archive for November, 2013
The 19th century photographs by Eadweard Muybridge captured something that had previously been too fleeting for the human eye: the mechanics of animal locomotion.
In his 1893 book Descriptive Zoopraxography, or the Science of Animal Locomotion made Popular, Muybridge described his most famous animal locomotion capture of a horse. The series of photographs aimed to settle a dispute over ”the possibility of a horse having all of his feet free of contact with the ground at the same instant, while trotting, even at a high rate of speed.” The photographs revealed conclusively for the first time that a horse’s feet do indeed leave the ground all at once while in full gallop, the horse pulling its legs briefly underneath itself before sprinting forward.
Burtynsky generates a revelatory tension between the images’ environmental content (and, indeed, their advocacy) and the aestheticizing of ecological stress, if not outright disaster. Of course, this theme of how people flourish with and simultaneously corrupt the environment is one Burtynsky has explored many times over the past two decades. Originally taking inspiration from American photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, Burtynsky eventually turned to landscape revisionists such as Robert Adams, Joe Deal, Louis Baltz, and especially Frank Gohlke (a group often labeled the New Topographics) who were determined to keep the human element in the frame, and not present nature as pristine in its isolation.