Behind the lens of a bodybuilding photographer

Over the years, when I took photos for magazines like Muscle & Fitness and Flex, especially the emerging phenomenon of female bodybuilding, I also saw the potential to create art photos of these incredible bodies. In the many years since photography was invented, almost every subject imaginable has been photographed over and over, making it difficult to do something really new, unique and exciting. w suddenly there was a subject that had never been there before and it was easy to create unique images of these women.

Whatever “art” is (and it is discussed a lot), the viewer's perception and understanding of the world should be changed. So I started focusing on showing the world how special and meaningful these aesthetically muscular women really are. In that regard, I started taking photos while imagining what they would look like on the wall of a museum or gallery - or, it turned out, in fine art photo books.

Billions of photographs have been taken since Louis Daguerre introduced photography to the world in 1839. Since the female body has been the subject of art for at least 35,000 years, it is not surprising that this subject quickly became a favorite of photographers. I have no doubt that one day in 1839 a photographer bought a camera and the next day asked a woman he admired to pose.

Artistic photo of Yolanda Hughes from Bill Dobbins Yolanda Hughes - naked, but not naked. Bill Dobbins

When I became the founding editor of Flex Magazine in the early 1980s, a revolution in the sport of bodybuilding was underway. From 1977 women took part in muscle competitions for the first time. Charles Gaines, author of the iconic book Pumping Iron, called this type of physique a "new archetype" - something that has never been seen in any culture at any time or place in history. My view was that both men and women compete in most sports, so now both men and women compete in bodybuilding. I took this as a simple fact.

Female bodybuilder and muscular woman Dayana Cadeau Dayana Cadeau in a pose from the traditions of art history. Bill Dobbins

I quickly understood that these women offer me a wonderful opportunity as a photographer. In all of the photographs that were taken, including all pictures of women’s bodies, no photos were taken of aesthetically muscular women because that type of body simply never existed! So I found myself in the situation of the first sailors who came across a land mass that they later called Australia - I suddenly had a completely new artistic continent to explore and document.

Completely new - because from the time of the ancient Chinese and Greeks to the Michelangelo era and beyond, there is no evidence of the existence of aesthetically muscular women because women simply never did any bodybuilding workout that would produce that type of physique.

Bodybuilder Dayana Cadeau poses in front of a mirror Often art is about training our perception with unusual images. Bill Dobbins

So there I was as a photographer in the early 1980s at the right time and in the right place to document this emerging cultural phenomenon. Since the bodies were new, every picture I took of them was new. Right from the start, I consciously began to refer to artistic approaches from the past. As a starting point, I would use Greek statues or paintings of women from the past. I would photograph these strongly developed, muscular bodies the way Ansel Adams photographed a landscape. I deliberately combined very “feminine” elements with female hypermuscles as a contrast. I loved taking “sexy” photos of women with the type of female muscle that most people don't associate with female attraction.

Female bodybuilders wear bikinis and sunbathe in the desert Art as a change of perception - sunbathing on the beach but 200 miles from the water. Bill Dobbins

Culturally and sociologically, the emergence of this new type of female body challenges many of our deepest assumptions about the female body, sexuality, women's physical abilities, morphology, gender identity, and the role of women in society. In other words, aside from showing how muscular some women can get (and check out a lineup of Olympic sprinters to see how this has spread), these women represent an important cultural phenomenon.

Bodybuilder and wife Olympia Lenda Murray pose on the beach Lenda Murray in the surf. Bill Dobbins

In the past few years I have published two art books (Taschen, Artisan), exhibited in two museums and several galleries, and published my female muscle photos in magazines around the world. But real revolutions take time. After tens of thousands of years of making certain assumptions about the female body, a few decades of aesthetic female hypermuscles are not enough to bring about a quick change. Culture is not a speedboat that reacts quickly to steering inputs. It is a large container ship, and tax changes take a long time before the ship actually changes course.

Of course, I also created fine art photos with male motifs. I emphasize my work with women because they are a new subject and have a unique place in photo and art history. From the ancient Greeks to Michelangelo and beyond, we've seen thousands of examples of male-themed fine art. Like here the six-time Mr. Olympia Master & # 39; s Champion Vince Taylor.

Mr. Olympia Vince Taylor in a pose proposed by the Sistine Chapel Art follows art: Master Mr. Olympia Vince Taylor in a pose proposed by the Sistine Chapel. Bill Dobbins

I feel very privileged to have been there with a camera when women with bodies like this were available to take pictures. And I believe the images I have created will be what the story refers to in order to understand how this phenomenon came about. My work was not discovered by collectors in the art world, but such is art. When Picasso and Matisse were first exhibited for sale in New York in the early 20th century, their multi-million dollar paintings could have been bought for very small sums - but most of them never sold. There is a huge difference between the value the art market attaches to works and the value culture assigns over time.

So if you want to buy a Picasso for a few dollars, invent a time machine. You are just too late! The culture has evolved. The same could do with my photos of aesthetically developed muscular women. If anyone is interested in collecting my art photos they are still affordable.

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