New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

The Strength of Women
Martin Schoeller
Female Bodybuilders
Martin Schoeller, “Fannie Barrios, Female Bodybuilders”, 2003

Photographs of female bodybuilders are nothing new and as close your local newsstand, but Martin Schoeller’s images have an important difference—they pack enough strength to push you back and then draw you in. The six photographs in the series are 89” x72” (also available as 61 ” x 50” print) so their sheer size helps them pack a punch. (A grid of sixty 12 by 10 inch images is also part of the show.) When you walk into the gallery, the sight of a serious looking, large breasted Fannie Barrios, head alluringly cocked to one side, will not prevent you from grimacing or saying “Ugh!” or other repulsive comment. But once you notice the sculpted details of her physique, you’re ready for a second, closer look.

Schoeller, who is well-known for his close up detailed portraits of celebrities and lesser mortals, turned his lens on female bodybuilders in 2003 and spent five years photographing them in all their six-pack glory. Schoeller says, “They challenge the boundaries of not only the shifting, maddening and ruthless standards of the female beauty industry, but what constitutes unnatural.” Each subject stares straight at the camera, locking eyes with you, almost commanding you to “look at me.” You do, but not for long. Schoeller says the women consider themselves to be artists, their bodies their greatest creation. But as the photographer says, their work goes unrewarded because they are women. Men who achieve the same level of physical perfection are more accepted and rewarded. Here though, it’s a real woman’s world. Take a look for yourself and try not to stare.

 by unidentified photographer.
Martin Schoeller, “Christine Roth, Female Bodybuilders,” 2004

Martin Schoeller
Female Bodybuilders

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