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In its comparatively short history, the photographic lens has turned onto nearly every possible subject, including animals. The long exposure time of most 19th-century photographic methods did not allow for the unpredictable motion of animals. Edweard Muybridge was the first to document animals in motion, capturing horses in full gallop to study their patterns of movement.
This important milestone formed the basis of the motion picture, which changed the course of visual arts in the 20th century. Publications such as National Geographic magazine supported photographers as they ventured to document species at the far reaches of the globe. Founded in 1888, the journal began with images taken with glass plate negatives, and continues to push the limits of nature and animal photography today.
Contemporary photographer Paul Nicklen dives under ice in Antarctica to photograph the rare leopard seal, and treks in hypothermic conditions to document the effect of a diminishing habitat on that the polar bear. His images both satisfy curiosity about these creatures, but also to bring awareness to the plight of animals affected by conservation issues.
American photographer Peter Beard has gained recognition for his photographs and photo-collages incorporating animals like lions and elephants in Kenya since the 1970s, showing their shrinking habitats
William Wegman made his mark on the international art scene with images of his weimeraner dogs. These are now in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum
Richard Avedon took fashion outside of the studio to capture his iconic image Dovima with Elephants in 1955. The images feature an iconic model in a Christian Dior dress posing with several elephants