Pumped-Up Images of Bodybuilders

The Photo Blog
Jan. 15 2013 11:00 AM

We’re Going To Pump You Up

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

With January halfway gone and exercise resolutions fading rapidly, a look at photographer Brian Finke’s series on bodybuilding contests, “Most Muscular” might resuscitate your desire to pump iron.

Or, it might not.

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

The series continues to amuse, delight, and possibly inspire sit-ups.

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

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Finke began work on the project when he was assigned to photograph the Mr. Olympia competition in Las Vegas for Men’s Journal in 2003, “when Arnold was still involved,” Finke says via email. “At the time my first book entitled 2.4.6.8: American Cheerleading & Football Players had just been released, and I was getting all these assignments to cover the behind the scenes of sporting events, just roaming around backstage, getting right next to the athletes, capturing all the emotions involved to get a sense of the characters.”

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

Brian Finke, Most Muscular

Brian Finke/ClampArt, New York City.

Finke photographed, as he says, “dozens and dozens” of contests over the course of two years, so many he lost count. He began with professional contests and eventually worked his way to photographing amateur contests, each being an entirely different experience. The professional contests were “… huge, produced productions and the amateur were homegrown. They had different competitive classes based on the body in professional and amateur, but for the most part the more informal situations and younger competitors were shot at the amateur competitions.”

Finke learned that people come to the world of bodybuilding from all walks of life, that there is no pattern to the people who end up involved. For those involved in the world of bodybuilding, the outsized muscles, excessive amounts of makeup (on both men and women competitors), and the other accoutrements of the sport become just part of the normal scenery.

All photographs from the series “Most Muscular” © Brian Finke, courtesy ClampArt, New York City.