Artist Statement

I had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time when modern bodybuilding for women first came on the scene in the late 1970s. As a bodybuilding fan and a sports fan in general, I recognized that women as well as men competed in sports such as track, gymnastics and basketball - and now they were involved in bodybuilding competition as well.

Not everyone in the physique world or outside it shared my acceptance and enthusiasm, but I gradually began to specialize more and more in photographing these women - first bodybuilders, then fitness and figure women and now physique and bikini as well. As "Pumping Iron" author Charles Gaines pointed out, these bodies represented a totally new archetype in all of cultural history. Or, in my words, "something new under the sun."

One aspect of this kind of photo, it quickly became evident, is that focusing on this kind of body, which never existed before, automatically made whatever kind of shot I attempt to be fresh and unique. I realized I could both try to find new and interesting ways of shooting these living pieces of sculpture, but I could also go back and revive motifs from the past and they would automatically look new and different. No traditional figure study, Venus, or Odalisque looks the same when the model has an aesthetically athletic level of development.

Art history is familiar with depictions of the male, athletic bodies - invented it seems by the ancient Greeks who had as their subjects a class of professional male athletes such as those in the Olympics. Artists like Michelangelo celebrated thise bodies. Would he have been intriqued if aestheticaly muscular women had existed in the 16th century? Would these subjects have become "Michelangelo's women?"

It also occured to me that the degree of detail you see in these physiquesmade photographing them almost like shooting them as landscapes, almost like Ansel Adams caputuring the wonders of Yosemite. Hills, valleys, sinuous canyons, all with different appearances depending on the direction and intensity of the light - many of my photos of these bodies tend decidedly in the direction of abstraction.

My photos were published in physique and other magazines and I became known at the first photographer to take these women very seriously. But my pictures also appeared in numberus galleries and in two museums. In recent years, my images of these wome have been collected in two books: "THE WOMEN: Photographs of the Top Female Bodybuidlers" (Artisan) and "MODERN AMAZONS" (Taschen). I have also made an effort to promote the idea that the best of my work is truly fine art, and deserving of the attention of the art world and seriously collectors.

This kind of acceptace has been slow in developing. But I am encouraged by the number of photos in the fine art world I see that were done as fashion assignments in the 1950s and 60s, publicity and promotional images from the world of celebrity and, of course, the success of Ansel Adams' photos in recent decades. Adams began his celebration of the American southwest before 1920s and was able to make a decent living celling his images and authoring books on photography. But it wasn't until the late 1960s that his pictures began to be taken seriously by the art market. And, in the end, his photos made him a millionaire.

But Ansel Adams didn't continue to be a photographer so that he would make a great deal of money. He followed his personal passions. In spite of the way the art market tends to function nowadays, with art treated primarily as a commodity rather than a cultural treasure, I find myself following Ansel Adam's example and simply trying to follow my own passions and create the very best images I can.

Bill Dobbins