Muybridge’s enthalpy | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 24, Issue 47
  • ISSN: 0845-4450
  • E-ISSN: 2048-6928



In ‘Muybridge’s enthalpy’ I present formal and historical analyses of a stereograph by the renowned American photographer Eadweard Muybridge. The Stereograph (1873) depicts three vertical steam pumps. I contextualize Muybridge’s stereograph with his subsequent work in composite photographs, many of his techniques perfected while in Central America. I focus particularly on an 1876 image that radically distorts its content – clouds and a volcano crater – into abstraction. I claim that Muybridge’s work in stereography, and his merger of multiple images in single frames, re-position our understanding of Muybridge’s proto-cinematic work within industrial culture of the time, particularly the newly declared Laws of Thermodynamics. I argue that J. Willard Gibbs’ theories of enthalpy, or or ‘warming in’, offers a new view upon how Muybridge strove to encapsulate the ephemeral in his steam pump stereograph and cloud composite. I conclude that the stereograph may be read as a clue to the explosive abstraction of his commodity practices.


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