What occurs within an image to give the illusion of movement of people or objects, when, obviously, neither people nor frames actually move?


1. Suspended Movement/ Stilled Motion


Single images that freeze the action of movement by capturing a moment of it in a 'split-second' of time

fragona65.jpg (167231 bytes) Jean-Honore Fragonard  The Swing 1767  

Gjon Mili

Jacques Henri Lartigue Grand Prix of the Automobile Club of France 1911


Nicholas Laham, Rugby Action

Gjon Mili

  Barbara Morgan, Martha Graham 1940

Lois Greenfield


Slow Shutter Speed

Gjon Mili


This photograph of a running stream was created using a slow shutter speed because of the cloudy effect of the moving water.

John Sexton Merced River and Forest, Yosemite Valley, California 1983

Paul Caponigro, Conty Wicklow, Ireland

Ed Kashi Saigon On Wheels  

John Goodman Two Wrestlers, Havana, Cuba, 2000


Decisive Movement

Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson used his understanding of impending change to formulate a theory
of photography he called "decisive moment." A pioneer in the use of the 35-mm camera, he caught
images at the moment of greatest impact, creating photographs that are charged with possibilities.


2. Summarized Movement

Single images that summarize a sequence of events in one frame where we see a progression of events or different stages of a story in the same picture:

as in the concept of a journey in John Ogilby's 17th century maps;

the narrative of the Norman Conquest in the Bayeux Tapestry


3. Simulated Movement

Single Images that evoke movement by showing the progress of the action  

SmwackDwg.jpg (3657102 bytes) sgrais

Another technique for evoking movement is to show a single figure in a superimposed sequence of movements. These are often often represented in the two extreme positions, and the intermediaries, of a particular movement.

Subjects can be photographed in selected positions across their path of movement, and their resultant multiple exposures on a single print can convey movement. 

Étienne-Jules Marey


Widely considered to be a pioneer of both photography and of cinema.

Marey, a physiologist, spent his lifetime studying the dynamics of movement in its multiple forms. Both animal and human motions fascinated him. To study and measure subtle phenomena that were often imperceptible to the human eye, he used “chronophotography,” a photographic technique that was a precursor to the “moving pictures” of today’s cinema.

Chronophotography was to record several phases of movement in one surface.

marey.jpg (77143 bytes) marey2.jpg (54515 bytes)


His work had a profound influence on modern art expressions such as in the work of Ballà, the Italian Futurist concerned with movement,

balla3.jpg (167665 bytes) dogleash.jpg (161918 bytes)Giacomo Balla Girl Running on a Balcony 1912, Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash 1912

In their Manifesto of 1910 the Futurist painters asserted that:

The gesture which we would reproduce on canvas shall no longer be a fixed moment in universal dynamism. It shall simply be the dynamic sensation itself. Indeed, all things move, all things run, all things are rapidly changing. A profile is never motionless before our eyes, but it constantly appears and disappears. On account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations, in their mad career.  

boccio.jpg (23896 bytes) 231_48_boccioni_unique.jpg (23491 bytes) 03.jpg (32157 bytes) Umberto Boccioni Unique forms of Continuity in Space 1913


His work is also credited with serving as the point of departure for Marcel Duchamp’s famous painting “The Nude Descending the Staircase.”

nude_no2.jpg (321594 bytes) Marcel Duchamp Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2  1911

During the 1860s Marey threw himself into the study of flight, first of insects and then birds. His aim was to understand how a wing interacted with the air to cause the animal to move.

In 1890 he published a substantial volume entitled Le Vol des Oiseaux (“The Flight of Birds”) richly illustrated with photographs, drawings, and diagrams.


He also created stunningly precise sculptures of various flying birds.

He also devised some ingenious apparatus based on his graphical method, such as a corset which allowed a bird to fly around a circular track while recording the movements of its thorax and wings.

Deemed to be one of the first theoreticians of aeronautics. He was attracted by invisible phenomena concerning air currents and the resistance of air in the flight of birds. His last experiments were concerned with the observation and instant photographic recordings of smoke currents. He created a “smoke machine” that was one of the first modern aerodynamic wind tunnels, later adopted by Gustave Eiffel, and still used today.

Marey photographed the diverse forms assumed by wisps of smoke projected through obstacles in his wind tunnels.

Ballistic Photography

Gjon Mili

Working with Harold Eugene Edgerton of MIT, Gjon Mili was a pioneer in the use of stroboscopic instruments to capture a sequence of actions in one photograph. Trained as an engineer and self-taught in photography, Gjon Mili was one of the first to use electronic flash and stroboscopic light to create photographs that had more than scientific interest.  Many of his notable images revealed the beautiful intricacy and graceful flow of movement too rapid or complex for the naked eye to discern. In the mid-1940s he was an assistant to the photographer Edward Weston.

Krupa.jpg (46589 bytes)    Gjon Mili




As an object moves, it sequentially occupies multiple spaces. Visual multiplication helps capture
such movement.

Multiplication creates a different effect in George Tooker's
Government Bureau.
Repeated images of the central male figure combined with endless bureaucratic faces
creates a scene from a nightmare. No matter where the man goes in the hall of mirrors,
he always returns to the beginning.

Government Bureau, 1956 George Tooker

Mark Tansey "The Innocent Eye Test"

4. Active Movement

Tracks of movement suggested in the physical execution of making an image  

The act of creating an image is a sequential process (Paul Klee described the act of drawing as 'taking a line for a walk').

The 'Action' Painters captured the energy and broad movements put into carrying out the act of painting itself. 

 pollockLavender Mist_Number 1_1950.jpg (359809 bytes) Jackson Pollock Lavender Mist Number 1 1950

 Jackson Pollock, Drawing, enamel on paper, c. 1950..jpg (29255 bytes) Drawing c. 1950


A style of abstract painting that uses techniques such as the dribbling or splashing of paint to achieve a spontaneous effect. In Action Painting the canvas is the arena in which the artist acts. The action of painting becomes the focus, the canvas becomes the record of the event.


MerceC19611969.jpg (31011 bytes) Siskind1958FranzKline.jpg (32662 bytes) Franz Kline  Merce C 1961, Siskind 1958

5. Optical Movement

Single Images that evoke the optical illusion of actual movement  

04-03-05x.jpg (58148 bytes) Shih-li (1975) Bridget Riley.gif (188925 bytes) Bridget Riley

1988_1Mercurius in the Vessel.jpg (62601 bytes) Anuszkiewicz_001-70-RA4_full.jpg (69399 bytes) Richard Anuszkiewicz

Wobble.gif (11456 bytes) static.jpg (341584 bytes)

6. Sequential Movement

Multiple images that summarize a sequence of events in a series of frames

Movement can also be suggested in step-and-repeat instructional illustrations. 

The comic strip is usually a story consisting of pictures that are juxtaposed in sequence. The action of the story unfolds in a sequence of events with successive pictures that are usually closely linked in time. 

The time element in between consecutive pictures, however, can vary -  there may be a split second between connecting images or minutes, hours, days and even years. 

The breaks are as much an important consideration as the pictures themselves. Comic strips anticipated the story-boards created for films where the main features of the plot are rendered first; then the gaps are filled in for the final production. 


Crumb.jpg (297469 bytes) Robert Crumb Stoned Agin! 1971

Robert Crumb A Short History of America 1979

Jim Steranko Outland

DavidHocneymymother,boltonabbey,yorkshire1982.jpg (293789 bytes) David Hockney My Mother, Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire 1982