Bodybuilding photograph collection, circa 1930s  PDF

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

The collection can be viewed on the Libraries' Digital Collections website. Glass plate negatives are not available for viewing. Contact Special Collections for more information.


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

Alternative Forms Available

View the digital version of the collection

Restrictions on Use

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

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Container(s) Description Dates
1  Group of men gathered around strongman
Possibly Arthur Dandurand, French-Canadian strongman. He lifted cannons, among other things.
between 1930 and 1940?
2  Shirtless bodybuilder with arms crossed between 1930 and 1940?
3 Nude bodybuilder holding a bar across his thighs between 1930 and 1940?
4  View from side of shirtless bodybuilder flexing biceps between 1930 and 1940?
5  Bodybuilder in bikini posed as stepping through large picture frame between 1930 and 1940?
6  Bodybuilder flexing biceps seen from behind
Similar pose as that of image #4.
between 1930 and 1940?
7  Bodybuilder flexing muscles with arms forward between 1930 and 1940?
8  View from behind of bodybuilder flexing right bicep between 1930 and 1940?
9  Shirtless bodybuilder lifting bar behind head between 1930 and 1940?
10  Full-length view of bodybuilder flexing biceps between 1930 and 1940?
11-12 Nude bodybuilder in reclining pose between 1930 and 1940?
13  Man in hooded cape with cloth tied around waist between 1930 and 1940?

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Bodybuilding--Photographs
  • Photography of the nude--Photographs
  • Weight training--Photographs
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photographs