Indecent Exposures

Eadweard Muybridge's "Animal Locomotion" Nudes

Sarah Gordon

View Inside Price: $65.00


October 27, 2015
184 pages, 8 x 10
80 color + 17 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300209488
Hardcover

A revelatory look at how Muybridge's photographs of nudes in motion propelled crucial scientific and cultural advancements of the modern era

Photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904), often termed the father of the motion picture, presented his iconic Animal Locomotion series in 1887. Produced under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania and encompassing thousands of photographs of humans and animals in motion, the series included more than 300 plates of nude men and women engaged in activities such as swinging a baseball bat, playing leapfrog, and performing housework—an astonishing fact given the period’s standards of propriety.

In the first sustained examination of these nudes and the remarkable success of their production, wide circulation, and reception, Indecent Exposures positions this revolutionary enterprise as central to crucial advancements of the modern era. Muybridge’s nudes ushered in new attitudes toward science and progress, including Darwinian ideas about human evolution and hierarchy; quickened debates over the role of photography and scientific investigation in art; and offered innovative perspectives on the human body. This fascinating story is copiously illustrated, and includes many lesser-known photographs published here for the first time.

Sarah Gordon is a lecturer, curator, and art consultant based in Washington, D.C.

“Sarah Gordon draws on a constellation of fascinating archival finds and inferences to offer a provocative and vital new interpretation of Animal Locomotion.”—Robin Kelsey, Harvard University

Indecent Exposures offers a fascinating new look at photography and modernity, and also at the forces shaping late nineteenth-century American society and culture, including the dynamics of science, professionalization, the rise of university-based scientific patronage, class, and gender.  It is a welcome contribution to the growing body of scholarship that is bringing photographic practices into the center of historical analysis.” —Jennifer Tucker, Wesleyan University

“Sarah Gordon’s willingness to move beyond the technology and aesthetics of motion and discuss meaning found in the unique presentation of Muybridge’s grids—and in the individual images—leads to a fascinating discussion of his true subject matter when photographing nudes: the artist’s and viewer’s gaze.”—Philip Brookman, National Gallery of Art