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Bodybuilding photograph collection, circa 1930s

Overview of the Collection

Bodybuilding photograph collection
circa 1930s (inclusive)
13 black and white contact prints (1 folder)
13 negatives : glass plate
Collection Number
Collection consists of black and white photographs of bodybuilders, including one group photo and a series of 12 poses of bodybuilders and men of impressive physique
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public.

Glass plate negatives are not available for viewing.


Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

Commercially produced anatomical studies of nude models became a standard cosmopolitan product in the late 19th Century. They were initially used for poor students of the arts who could not afford a live model. The bodybuilding male model in physique photography was popularized by the famous weightlifter, Eugen Sandow, during this time. In this context, muscle mass was a reflection of the Greek ideal, meticulously proportioned. Images were often of erotic form; depicting the male model scantily clad or nude as Hercules or powdered white imitating a Greek statue. Artistic study thus transformed physique photography into an industry often sold as pocket-sized postcards.

The line was sometimes thin between the bodybuilder model and homoerotic photography. This artistic movement was often geared towards the closeted gay male audience, which was challenged in the 20th century. Censorship increased, and the scene moved underground in response to the penalization of homosexuality. Bodybuilding thus divorced itself as a subversive act and grew as an homage to the perfection of the male form, becoming a legitimate sport in 1939 by the York Barbell Company "Best Built Man" contest.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of one group photo and series of 12 bodybuilding poses. Bodybuilders are primarily nude, or wearing a bikini, jockstrap, or hooded cape. Photographs primarily taken in a studio setting.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Preferred Citation

The required credit line for use of images from Special Collections is: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, [plus the negative number].

The negative number is provided with the image and is a letter + number combination such as UW13452; Hegg 1234; or NA1275. A typical credit line would be, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW13452.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Container(s) Description Dates
1 Group of men gathered around strongman  
Possibly Arthur Dandurand, French-Canadian strongman. He lifted cannons, among other things.
circa 1930s
2 Shirtless bodybuilder with arms crossed   circa 1930s
3 Nude bodybuilder holding a bar across his thighs circa 1930s
4 View from side of shirtless bodybuilder flexing biceps   circa 1930s
5 Bodybuilder in bikini posed as stepping through large picture frame   circa 1930s
6 Bodybuilder flexing biceps seen from behind
Similar pose as that of image #4.
circa 1930s
7 Bodybuilder flexing muscles with arms forward circa 1930s
8 View from behind of bodybuilder flexing right bicep circa 1930s
9 Shirtless bodybuilder lifting bar behind head circa 1930s
10 Full-length view of bodybuilder flexing biceps circa 1930s
11-12 Nude bodybuilder in reclining pose circa 1930s
13 Bodybuilder in hooded cape with cloth tied around waist   circa 1930s