Eadweard Muybridge was born in Kingston-upon-Thames, England, in April 1830 as Edward James Muggeridge. He came to the United States in 1851 and worked for two publishing companies on the east coast until 1855, when he moved to California and established a book store in San Francisco. In 1860 he set off on an extensive journey east through the United States and on to Europe, but was injured in a stagecoach accident in Texas. He spent some time in England recuperating and back in the States suing the stage coach company, but not all of his activities between 1860 and 1866 are known.

In 1867 he returned to California and commenced his photography career, focusing for the next six years on California and the Far West. He traveled in Central America and Panama during 1875 to 1876; and in 1876 and 1877 he completed his panorama of San Francisco.

Muybridge worked closely with Senator Leland Stanford on experiments to record horses in motion, trying first to answer the question of whether or not all four feet are off the ground during the trot. In 1873 he successfully captured that event in Sacramento, using Leland Stanford's horse Occident as his subject. He made further photographs of Occident in 1877 and then in 1878-1879 he set up a studio at Stanford's Palo Alto Stock Farm and conducted many photographic experiments of horses in motion.