THE EXACT POSITION of a horse's four legs at any given moment during a race; the beery spume of water gliding over rocks; a couple locked dead still in an embrace, while behind them the city's frantic whirl goes on: photography is miraculous, in that it grants us visions of what the eye could not otherwise see. But photography is malign too, in that it encourages us to stop seeing at all. Show me a professional photographer and I will show you someone for whom life is an abstraction; show me an amateur photographer and I will show you someone letting life pass them by. So quickly can a tourist move from snapping one vista to another, from one monument to another, that nothing is actually witnessed: photography is a kind of aesthetic false-memory syndrome.
None of which is to denigrate the achievements of Eadweard Muybridge, the subject of Rebecca Solnit's fearsomely learned book. Muybridge was one of the great inventors of the Victorian age, but even had he not been a pioneer of photography and a key player in the development of motion-picture technology,