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By Bill Dobbins


It is unfortunate but true that IFBB professional bodybuilding for women is going through a low period.  Female bodybuilding categories have been eliminated both from the Olympia and the Arnold Weekend – for no particularly good reason.  So this has left pro women bodybuilders with a shortage of places to compete and limited their ability to earn money.

But an organization has stepped in and as of 2011 tried to at least partially fill the vacuum created by the IFBB: Wings of Strength.  Wings is the creating of businessman Jacob Wood and his wife Kristal – both very buff themselves.  Here is what the Wings website says in the “about” section:

Founders, Jake and Kristal Wood, launched Wings of Strength in 2011 to ensure that there are meaningful stage opportunities for women to compete in bodybuilding pro shows. Wings of Strength strives to support all female athletes and all athletes attending a Wings of Strength show.

Wings of Strength is currently the flagship sponsor of two annual shows including the Chicago Pro and Tampa Pro shows. In 2014, Wings of Strength also sponsored the Omaha Pro.

Wings of Strength conducts fitness photo shoots throughout the year and sells these photos via monthly memberships on 100% of the website proceeds are reinvested into sponsoring of pro shows around the country.

In 2013, Wings of Strength’s special guests included six time Ms. Olympia, Cory Everson and eight time Ms. Olympia, Lenda Murray. In 2014, Kim Chizevsky (4x Ms Olympia) and Lenda Murray (8x Ms Olympia) were honored guests.

You can find Wings of Strength on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.


Wings of Strength has been promoting contests and has seven of them scheduled for 2017.  The women pros who compete in these events – which include fitness and figure as well – are very grateful for the opportunity to show themselves to their fans and to make additional money.  The problem has been that there have been fairly small audiences buying tickets for these contests and very little publicity afterwards to promote and publicize the winners.

Unfortunately, in the age of the Internet, when it is so easy to “broadcast” information to the world, EVERYBODY is doing it and it is very difficult for any one message to get heard above the noise.  It is like shouting as loud as you can in a hurricane. Your voice easily gets drowned out.  So if Wings is going to achieve a higher level of promotion and recognition and develop a much larger following the organization is going to have to step up the sound of it’s “voice” and attract more attention.


Kristal and Jake Wood with Wings of Strength Champion Helle Trevino.

The key to mass promotion in the digital age is making a lot of connections – amassing the maximum number of links, Likes and followers possible.  However, Wings has a website that is based on asking visitors to register for membership.  Real world experience has shown that only a fraction of people are interested in doing this.  So this practice actually drives away many potential fans.

Websites can have a membership area that provides special benefits, but the number one goal should be attracting the maximum number of visitors possible to the site itself – and getting them to come back time and again on a regular basis.  You do this with lots of compelling content and regular updates – photos, videos, blog posts and links to other relevant sites.  If you provide enough free content you increase visits, promote the athletes and upcoming events and expand the community supporting female muscle.

Except for some sites featuring adult content, the era in which a lot of people are willing to pay amounts like $22.90 to join a website has pretty much gone away for good.


Look at which gives away content and in return has attracted a huge following that produces an amazing number of visits.  The site then use this following to sell supplements – and is able to do this extremely successfully.

But to sell or promote, whatever your goal: first somebody has to be paying attention. You have to attract a crowd of people before you can influence those people to do anything.

As I said, it is practical to have a separate membership area as part of a site.  But a lot of thought has to go into what to offer members that would justify their spending money. And deciding how much to charge.  Meantime, what you can gain of most value from a website is a MAILING LIST – to collect as many names of supporters as possible to help in your future promotional activities.

Mailing lists are gold in the digital age.


A Wings of Strength promotional event at Muscle Beach, Venice.



A website should be closely linked with your social networking.  It is possible nowadays to have hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – as well as photography sharing sites like Pinterest.  Somebody needs to be constantly updating content on these services and they should be liked together to cross-promote.

One of Donald Trump’s promotional advantages is that he has 25 million Twitter followers.  That says a lot about publicity in the age of the Internet.

Another possibility is an online digital magazine.  It is much too expensive and limiting to publish print magazines nowadays.  But online publications are relatively cheap and easy to create.  Most of the major print publishers also have digital versions of their publications – although few have figured out how to monetize these efforts.  But if you goal is not making money with a digital magazine but simply communication and publicity, this offers all sorts of possibilities.


Lenda Murray awards a WOSchampionship trophy to Monique Jones.

As far as photography is concerned, in a world of too many images only the most compelling and extraordinary stand much chance of making a difference.

When Joe Weider was developing Muscle & Fitness and Flex Magazines, he made a lot of effort to upgrade photo content from the then industry standard by working with only the best photographers in bodybuilding and recruiting a number of top Hollywood and Playboy photographers to contribute to his publications.  He also spent a lot of money in this effort.  The competing magazines were either unwilling or unable to do the same.  This resulted in M&F being so successful it was labeled “the publishing miracle of the 1980s.”  The idea that superior content results in superior promotion is just as true today. The more photos there are out there the greater the need to use the best images possible.

The major ad agencies understand this.  Which is why the top fashion brands will spend many tens of thousands of dollars on photo shoots – and why some of the top fashion photographers can afford to fly in their own jets back and forth between the US and Europe.

So an organization like Wings should ideally step up when it comes to publishing the best possible photos of the fit and fabulous females they are working with and assign well-produced photo shoots involving the best possible professional photographers.

In his heyday, Joe Weider would fly champions to Los Angeles to shoot with the best studio photographers rather than relying on a photographer doing pictures as a contest venue.  He sent models and photographers to places like Cabo San Lucas.  He once rented Hoover Dam as a location for his photographers to shoot fabulous muscle women.  Obviously, with all this time, effort and expense involved he only used the BEST available photographers for these photo shoots.

There are BILLIONS of photos being uploaded to the Internet.  Only the best and most interesting are likely to be noticed and remembered.


There is also the matter of video.  Video is gaining in popularity and Facebook says it will sometime soon feature more video than still images.  So for maximum success Wings should think about putting maximum effort into adding video to its promotional efforts. The Wings website should be video rich with a lot of content also shared with YouTube

There is no doubt that first-rate photographic production  in the era of Twitter and Instagram is necessary to attract the right kind and amount of attention.  This quality control is essential  as far as content you own and control is concerned.  But achieving the maximum promotion and recruiting as many followers as possible can’t be done without opening the field up to having others publicize you as well.

For example, only having your own photographers shoot a contest and controlling the images is very limiting, even if you have a very energetic campaign of publicity and social networking to get the images out to the public.  Every legitimate media photographer should be invited and encouraged to shoot contest photos – perhaps with the proviso that a Wings logo be added to any photos used.

In addition to online contest coverage of your events, make sure every magazine interested  has access to photo coverage for free.  Give them text coverage as well as images.  When it comes to repeating a promotional message, it is hard to do this too much or too often. You say it, say it again and keep saying it.


As to the contests, any experienced promoter will tell you that it is very hard to attract big audiences for pro events for women unless the show is coupled with an NPC amateur contest, an expo or some other entertaining event.  Holding women’s pro events on their own costs a lot of money, plays to a limited number of ticket buyers and limits the amount of possible publicity.

Wings of Strength has done a great job in creating events in which pro women can compete and allowing them the chance of making more income. It has spent a great deal of money in these efforts.  Wings has involved Ms. Olympia Lenda Murray as its spokesperson and there simply is no better person to represent the organization. But more is necessary.

A rising tide lifts all boats.  The better Wings does at promoting its activities, at attracting the maximum number of followers and bringing deserving champions to the attention of fans and the pubic, the better is it for all women who compete and their loyal supporters.

So I invite everyone to do what they an to support Wings of Strength.  And I urge the organization to take the next step when it comes to making use of superior content, social networking and the Internet to continue to grow and prosper.

Bill Dobbins is a pro photographer located in the Westwood area of Los Angeles. He is a veteran photographer and videographer who has exhibited his fine art in two museums and a number of galleries and who has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:

The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Tashen)

Marley Martin is a multiple winner of Wings of Strength contests.


Lenda Murray, Wings of Strength spokesperson, with photographer/writer Bill Dobbins






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Maybe “Art” Should Be A Verb, Not A Noun

By Bill Dobbins

Humans are fond of using symbols for which there is no actual referent.  That is, using words to refer to things that don’t actually exist.  It would be hard to find real world examples of “dragon,” “unicorn” or “clean coal.”


Before the modern age and mechanical or technological reproduction, art was necessary to show and record what distant people, places and things looked like.

We also use words that describe concepts that are hard to define.  For example, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said he couldn’t define pornography but knew it when he saw it. The reason for is that pornography is not really a thing: it is a reaction to a thing.  A pin up poster from 1944 was considered sexy but acceptable.  Today it looks quaint.  In 1844 it would have been classified as pornography.  The image itself would always have been the same but how it was viewed by the culture can be radically different in different eras.

In 1944 a Betty Grable pin up was considered sexy. Today it looks quaint. In 1844 it would have been pornographic. Eye of the beholder.

In 1944 a Betty Grable pin up was considered sexy. Today it looks quaint. In 1844 it would have been pornographic. Eye of the beholder.

“Art” is a primary example of a concept we use that can be defined many different ways.  Let’s see what Merriam Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary has to say about it:

  • something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings

  • : works created by artists : paintings, sculptures, etc., that are created to be beautiful or to express important ideas or feelings

  • : the methods and skills used for painting, sculpting, drawing, etc.


The modern art gallery started out as a place where artists could sell their work to patrons, usually with the help of artist agents.

But there is more to the idea.  Art is an activity that artists do.  Art can also be defined as a creative expression that can be displayed in a museum or gallery, performed in a theater, and bought and sold in some variation of the art marketplace.  So art can a commodity worth in some cases a great deal of money.  This particular way of viewing art is relatively recent.  In the past, works of art are almost all commissioned by rich patrons, governments or the church.  It wasn’t until around the 1830s that you saw an increasing number of works being created by artists and sold as commodities by art dealers in galleries.


Nowadays, artists of various sorts often create work first and sell it to whatever buyers are interested. That was hardly the case when Pope Julius commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.

Prior to this, you wouldn’t have seen discussions of the “value” of a work of art.  Artists were paid but how much they received for their labors was not the measure of the value of the sculpture, painting, musical piece or any other artistic work.  We certainly don’t value the Sistine Chapel by how much Pope Julius paid Michelangelo to paint it.  We don’t how much Leonardo was paid to paint the Mona Lisa but no doubt it was only a tiny fraction of what the painting is worth today.

Before the age of mechanical and electronic reproduction, art had the basic function of illustrating and communicating what things looked like.  Art was a practical necessity and artists had  a recognized and valuable profession.  Coincidentally or not, it turns out that the birth and growth of the art market and art as commodity happened just about the time photography was introduced as a commercial reality.  “Art for art’s sake” makes a lot more sense when it isn’t needed every day to show people what distanct people, places and things actually look like.


Once there was an art market and artists no longer bore the burden of illustration and communication, they began to experiment with new ways of viewing reality and so-called “modern art” began to evolve.  Picasso used Cubism to combine multiple points of view at once.

Of course, the value of art in the marketplace is much like the box office results from the opening weekend of a movie – an interesting statistic but not really relevant to its ultimate  significance to the overall culture.  How many contemporary works of art fetching high prices today will keep their value 50 or 100 years in the future?  How many of them will make any real difference to the nature of culture and civilization in distant times?

To what degree will what we call art actually change the way people think and feel, alter the way they see the world, make a difference in the ideas and values that constitute the culture we all share and which informs our experience of life?

hine-the-spinnersLouis Hine used his camera as a tool for social change and reform. His photographs helped to change the child labor laws in the United States. His prints today are highly valued and widely collected.

This is why I am less concerned with what art is and more with what it does.  Why I think “art” should be best treated as a verb, something which accomplishes something.  Let me give you a very simple example.  Early in the 20th century, Ansel Adams took up photography and began doing a lot of pictures of the area around Yosemite.  From the late 1920s on he developed his BW landscape portfolios that featured the work he is now legendary for.  He concentrated on capturing the light and atmosphere in his mountain and desert locations, finding ways to extending the ability of his negatives to register total range and to develop methods of printing that did his negatives full justice.


The photographs of Ansel Adams helped make people aware of the importance of the wilderness and need for modern society to protect the environment. When the trend toward more highly valued collector prints began in the 1970s his prints became much more expensive.

Adams was recognized early on as a master photographer but this didn’t make him rich.  At least not back in the day.  People liked  his “pretty pictures” but they were not viewed as important fine art or seen as deeply important to the culture.   So his prints could be purchased pretty cheaply and by the early 1950s Adams had finished shooting most of his most important images and was concentrating mods on printing, publishing books and teaching.


Photographers like Dorothea Lange were hired by the Farm Security Administration during the depression to document conditions and show the rest of the world how bad conditions actually were. Those documentary pictures are now in art museums and fine art photo collections.

But at a certain point the photos of Ansel Adams were reevaluated as the environmental movement began to build, America became a much more crowded place and the culture realized realized that the wilderness landscapes he had depicted were a valuable, vanishing resource the idea of which our modern civilization should preserve, conserve and cherish.

Fortunately for Adams, this roughly coincided with the interest in buying and selling fine art photo prints in the 1970s, in part due to the efforts of people like curator and collector Sam Wagstaff.  So Ansel Adams was not only hailed as a major artist in his old age but was able to make quite a bit of money as well.  At long last.

So what had been pretty pictures were know recognized as art and Adams’ landscapes came to provoke an emotional reaction in viewers that made them think and feel differently about the wilderness and the value of unspoiled nature.  Looking at an Adams photo did something to viewers that had not happened in earlier years – and which was not the same as the experience that resulted when they looked at the work of most other landscape photographers.


A lot of commercial work like this fashion photo by Richard Alvedon later turn out to be more sought after as art than pictures originally  intended for fine art purposes.

Other photographers over the past 180 years or so have achieved similar impact.  What we know and feel about a variety of aspects of life from war, to fashion, to sports or child labor have been hugely influenced by photography.  How can you think about Viet Nam without picturing the little girl running down the road badly burned by napalm?  (She eventually survived and prepared, by the way). We cannot help but think of the pictures of Dorothea Lange in contemplating the dust bowl.  We are now able to view the fashion photos of Penn and Alvedon as cultural documents now that they are removed from the context of their times.

Art in general, but photographs in particular, are best measured by what they do, what effect they have on the minds and emotions of viewers and the direction in which they steer and shape the culture.  This is what i have against photo competitions.  Contests rare produce truly important and significant photos in the same way that you do n’t get a Lady GaGa, Beyonce, Bob Dylan or the Beatles emerging from shows like American Idol.  You also see a lack of what truly turns out to be art from the efforts of “art photographers.”  The reason is there has been a tendency since the earliest days of photography and the pictorialist movement to emphasize the artsy over the truly artistic.

That is to create something that looks like art, looks like something you should consider art but that doesn’t actually do what art needs to do to achieve any real significance.


Pictorialism was a style in which photographers deliberately tried to make their images look “artsy,” as much like paintings as possible. In the digital age there is somewhat of a return to be artsy rather than genuinely artistic.

But please make no mistake: anybody is entitled to engage in any kind of artistic expression they personally feel and believe is valuable.  Art art comes from within and creativity is a natural and valuable aspect of human nature.  So there is no accounting for taste and people can express them however they want, in any medium and can like an appreciate anything that suits and please them.

De gustibus non est disputandum.

It doesn’t matter what the art market decides at any given point.  The market is ephemeral and fleeing.  In the long run some artistic works will take hold and become important parts of the cultural and some won’t.  The culture itself can be defined as “what gets taken up and passed on to the future.”  So Vincent Van Gogh is an important part of art history and dozens of other starving artists of the period are not.  Van Gough did not achieve this “on purpose.”  He simply won the cultural lottery.


With electronic photography, Photoshop and digital printing, artist David Hockney says that now photography can take its place as an equal art to painting. The question is whether this is still photography – and whether the mind will respond as well to images it doesn’t perceive as “real.”

It is hard to know what kind of art will ultimately make a difference.  It takes hindsight to look back and see what turned out to have been important, entered people’s consciousness and ultimately changed human life.  Sometimes it seemed pretty predictable and sometimes not.

But there is no doubt that art changes human life and the greatest art is what makes the greatest changes – even when it doesn’t seem all that “artsy” when it first makes its appearance.

Bill Dobbins is a pro photographer located in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.  He is a veteran photographer and videographer who has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:

The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Tashen)







NO ACCOUNTING FOR TASTE – or the valuation of the art market. The photo Rhein II by Andreas Gursky was actioned for $4.3 million. Anyone with suggestions why this is great art is welcome to weigh in with an opinion.
























FEMALE MUSCLE: Where Feminism Has Failed Women


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Where Feminism Has Failed Women

By Bill Dobbins


Women’s Lib has been a huge force for change in modern culture. Supposedly to benefit all women – has it really?

The progress that women, primarily in western culture, have made since the latter half of the 19th century is amazing.  This is especially evident when you look at the status of women in parts of the world that have not gone through this evolutionary change.

At one point women couldn’t own property.  They  could vote.  They were the property of their husbands.  Consider the folk song:

“Hatd is the fortune of of all woman kind.  She’s always controlled, she always confined.  Controlled by her parents until she’s a wife.  A slave to her husband the rest of her life.”

Most women throughout history has been peasant farmers and could not have survived if they have been weak and lacked endurance.

Most women throughout history has been peasant farmers and could not have survived if they have been weak and lacked endurance.

Women got the vote.  They started being elected to political office.  Women scientists were permitted to receive the Nobel Prize.  Female became banks and lawyers and CEOs of corporations.  They could aspire to be general ands military fighter pilots.  They became celebrated in athletics and many sports for women became more popular than the same sport for men.  In the 1950s and 1960s we saw a more organized movement to further the progress of women across the board that was called “feminism.”  This effort and struggle is still going on and gradually chipping away at the remaining artificial cultural restrictions on females, working for example to achieve equal pay for equal work.


Some women strength and field athletes can be conventionally built, others quite massive and beefy. But as athletes their looks are not the main way success if measured. But bodybuilding is about AESTHETICS.

But  in the 1970s this movement totally hit the wall, failed to continue to support women and in fact became a part of the problem instead of the solution.  The issue?  Women developing their muscles for essentially aesthetic purposes, a pursuit hitherto received as the exclusive province of men.  That is, the cultural phenomenon that is bodybuilding for women, and the other categories of female bodybuilding that have evolved in the years since.


Pound for pound, Mari Asp is one of the strongest women in the world. She looks attractive but it is by her lifts she measures her own performance.

Understand, it is NOT the idea of muscles on women per se.  Throughout history, most people have been peasant farmers, about half of those have been women and those trying to survive and thrive as a farmer have to depend on the strength of their bodies.  Especially back in the days before mechanized farm machinery.  Nobody ever criticized farm wives because they could plow behind a mule, haul water or chop wood.

Nor is the opposition based on women getting big and strong.  For more than 30 years we’ve seen  well publicized weightlifting (and then  powerlifting) competition for women.  Some of the bigger women involved have been very beefy but since their bodies were developed in pursuit of sports performance and not aesthetics they haven’t gotten much that much criticism because of their body conformation or looks.


At the first Ms. Olympia contest in 1980, the competitors were not very big. Kittens, and not yet cats.

Of course, the idea that building muscle with weight training has long been suspect as being somehow unnatural.  My father was a national high school track champion and he told me coaches back then did not want their athletes working with weights.  Look at the story line in Rocky IV and you see Drago training with all the latest high tech equipment while Rocky is out in the woods chopping wood and pulling sleds.  Athletes across the board train with weights nowadays.  But, again, they are working to improve sports performance, not their looks, and the public is much more appreciative of this.

But when it comes to public appreciation, while our culture is somewhat accepting of the muscles of male bodybuilders – after decades of muscle movies, Steve Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone and others) the opposition to bodybuilding for women has continued to grow and get stronger.  Pioneers like Lisa Lyon, Rachel McLish and Cory Everson were all that big and muscular compared to the top  pro bodybuilders today.  They were considered “cute” and got a lot of media attention.  Even features in Playboy and work in TV and movies.  Contests like the IFBB Ms. Olympia and Arnold’s Ms. Internatonal were successful and well attended.  The women were frequently published in the major bodybuilding magazines.


Lisa Lyone was the first female bodybuilder to get national attention. She was on TV, featured in Playboy and collaborated on a book with photographer Robert Mapplethrope.

But while everybody loves kittens, many don’t like cats.  So when the women continued to get bigger and more muscular, as is what happens which genetically gifted athletes train hard and long enough, the opposition to them continued to increase as well.  This opposition frequently took the form of obvious and explicit gender discrimination emanating from the governing federations themselves – in the form of rules that would not  have been tolerated in any other sport and may not have actually been legal.  Can you imagine a rule in bodybuilding for men stating that competitors couldn’t be “too big” or “too muscular?”  Such a rule was  issued by IFBB President Ben Weider in a set of “guidelines” written in 2000.


The guidelines issued to women bodybuilders by the NPC and IFBB in 2000 – specifically forbidding muscularity “to the extreme” in a clear example of gender discrimination.

This debacle has continued until at this point the IFBB no longer includes bodybuilding for women in the Olympia Weekend nor does the Arnold Sport Festival include female bodybuilding.  Pole dancing, yes.  Ballroom dancing, of course.  Cheerleading, naturally.  But not the sport of “bodybuilding” for women, even though this is actually included in the name of the organization.


The only limit to the development of competitive female bodybuilders, except for weight divisions, should be an aesthetic one – the aesthetics being that of bodybuilding, not some other measure of beauty.

My question at this point is this: Where are the feminists when a fundamental right of women to control their own bodies is being challenged?  Why are they not opposing such an obvious case of institutional gender discrimination and disrespect for the rights of women to excel to the maximum when it comes to the aesthetic development of their own bodies?  Why hasn’t the National Organization for Women come to the aid of women with aesthetic muscle?  What about the Feminist Majority Foundation, a champion of gender equity in athletics and sports?  Has this subject been deal with by The Feminist Wire?  Anybody else speaking  up for the rights of women in sport?

Actually, the fact that feminism has so terribly failed to support women with aesthetically developed muscles shows how important and deeply fundamental this subject is.  It illustrates how strong people hold on to their deep beliefs about gender morphology, femininity, sexual identity and the place of women in our culture.  We have seen feminism make progress as well as civil rights for many groups including African Americans, gays, lesbians and now transsexuals.  Gay marriage and adoption are now practically commonplace.


The International Federation of Bodybuilders seems not to remember what its name is – but has dropped female bodybuilding from the Ms. Olympia and Ms. International but retained events like pole dancing and cheerleading.

And yet the opposition continues to women developing their muscles for aesthetic purposes.  When you stop to think about it, how very strange is this?  What does the culture find so terribly strange about women building big, full, shapely and defined muscle?  Some believe women are against this because they are made so insecure by seeing such wonderful bodies.  It is thought men who are attracted to women with muscles may unconsciously fear they are really homosexual.  Who know?  It is easy enough to suppose.

But the bottom line is that gender discrimination in sport is WRONG no matter what the reason for it might be.  Organizations, universities, sanctioning bodies or whoever might be in charge of sport should not engage in or allow rules and procedures that discriminated against females. There is probably a law against this or, if there isn’t, there should be.


In spite of the rejection on the part of the IFBB, women bodybuilders and their fans continue to thrive and prosper.

Here is a statement from NOW:

“We, men and women who hereby constitute ourselves as the National Organization for Women, believe that the time has come for a new movement toward true equality for all women in America, and toward a fully equal partnership of the sexes, as part of the world-wide revolution of human rights now taking place within and beyond our national borders.”

Where does it say about they are for true equality from women…unless they decide they want to build and develop their muscles for primarily aesthetic purposes?  Maybe NOW out to go back and reread their own Statement of Purpose.






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Maybe Because They Are Much Easier To Process

By Bill Dobbins

The earliest known type of camera was the camera obscure, in which light passing through a small  hole was projected on some kind of screen behind it.  The first reference to this device occurred in China back around 400 BC.  There was no way to fix this image, but artists did create drawings by tracing the projection.  In fact, artist David Hockney, writing in his book Secret Knowledge, proposes that the perspective that appears in many famous paintings was achieved by using this method.


The camera obscura has been known since about 400 BC.  Artists could trade the projected image.

Modern photography, in which a permanent fixed image can be created using a camera, was the subject of experiment in the early 1800s but became commercially available in 1839.  Originally, photography was done in BW and color effects were achieved by hand coloring photographic prints.  There were a variety of experiments involving color photography throughout the 1800s and into the 2oth century but it wasn’t until the late 1930s both Kodak and Agfa introduced commercial  film and processing techniques that allow for shooting color negatives or transparencies.

From that time on both still photographers and movie makers had the ability to work as easily in color as they had been using BW.  Despite this, our culture seems to have retrained a fondness for BW images – and even a preference when it  comes to the world of fine art photography.  The question is why this love of BW exists and continues to persist?


Kodachrome film did not contain any color. The color was added later in processing, much like human color perception.

There are a lot of opinions regarding this matter.  By taking away the color information, BW images are able to better reveal details such as form, shape and graphic construction which color tends to obscure.  BW reveals aspects of tonal range you aren’t as aware of in color.  Even very detailed photos in BW are still more abstract than color photos because the color information has been eliminated.  Being more abstract and less literal, many feel this medium is inherently more artistic.


Back in the day to create color prints they had to be hand colored.

All of the above is true, but it leaves something out.  Something I have written about in other blog posts.  The fact is, seeing color involves very complex processes in the brain and seeing BW is far quicker, easier and less labor intensive.  So I suspect the brain prefers looking a BW images because it has to work so much less hard.

When it comes to seeing color, science has long been puzzled by the phenomenon of color constancy.  This refers to the fact that we can perceive the color of an object in spite of the color of light that is illuminating it (up to a point).  A red ball looks red in your living room and your backyard, although the light indoors and outdoors have very different color temperatures.


There is no doubt that this Ansel Adams photo would not be as dramatically effective if sot in color.

We know there is no such thing as “color” in nature.  There is only wavelength.  The eye perceives light of a certain wavelength, communicates information to the brain which somehow creates our subjective experience of color.  But how this all happens has been a mystery since we don’t have three different kinds of receptors in the eye representing red, green and blue as photographic film might have.  So how does the brain know what color it should present to use as part of our visual experience?

The answer to this was discovered by Edwin Land, invented of the Polaroid camera.  He realized the photoreceptors at the back of the eye (actually, the cones) are modified by three different color “filters.”  These filters change the contrast range of the light being transmitted to the brain and by comparing and contrasting these different ranges of contrast the brain is able to compute, calculate and produce the experience we know as color.


Photographer Man Ray made BW even more abstract by using techniques such as solarization.

This is an amazing, highly complex process that involves a great number of brain cells and a lot of processing power and energy.  We aren’t consciously aware of any of this, but the brain certainly is.  Humans have evolved over millions of years to be homeostatic organisms, very good at maintaining internal balance and equilibrium.  As part of this process, evolution tries to be very economical and always tries to choose the easiest way of dong  things with minimum waste or effort. Why else would men have nipples?

My supposition is that this is why we have a certain preference and take a lot of comfort from looking a BW images rather than color.  It is easier on the brain and nervous system.  It is less complex and requires less effort and energy.  Unconsciously, this suits our nature of beings who have evolved to survive in the world in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Of course, there is also the fact that BW photos can be extremely beautiful.  We have also evolved to have a highly developed aesthetic sense, so beauty is certainly an important consideration.


My photo “Ozymandias” is a good example of emphasizing abstract qualities such as form, shape and total range by eliminating color info.

Bill Dobbins is a pro photographer located in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.  He is a veteran photographer and videographer who has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:

The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Tashen)







There is color in fashion but some of the most effective fashion photos, such as this image by Irving Penn, continue to be done in BW.



By Bill Dobbins

Seeing is one of the most complicated things we do.  But we are mostly unaware of the complexity involved with vision so we don’t fully appreciate all that goes into being able to take in visual information and create the experience of vision.


Cameras and technology are constantly changing. The need for a talented and experienced photographer remains constant.

The human brain is the most complex structure we know of in the whole universe and the parts of the brain involved with vision are extensive.  Seeing is such a remarkable process that Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA, has written a whole book about it. (Astonishing Hypothesis).  The world we perceive as being “out there” is in reality something we create “in here.”  Our visual experience is manufactured by our senses, nervous system, certain cells in our brain and informed by our expectations and previous experience.


The eye takes in light but the brain creates the experience of vision.

Our brains have different cells that recognize vertical lines, diagonal and horizontal lines.  Certain cells respond to various shapes and to movement.  Somehow all these cells work together to create a coherent visual experience.  Humans have specialized cells that recognize human faces.  Your dog or cat can’t do that.  They may recognize you as an individual but not by being able to identify your face.  There are some people who are “face blind” – that is, they look at a face, see all the details but simply can’t recognize to whom the face belongs.  There are some (mostly men) who are  “color blind” and unable to perceive color accurately.


Color perception makes fruit visible in the jungle.

Color perception is another very complex process that our brains allow us to experience.  When light comes into the eye it has wavelength, but that is not the same as color.  Color perception is created by an extremely complicated process in the brain.  Being able to see color has some obvious evolutionary advantages.  Imagine being in a jungle and searching for fruit.  In a BW world, where everything is a shade of gray, the fruit would be almost invisible.  When you can see color the yellows, reds and other bright colors of fruit stand out vividly.

There is something called “color constancy” which describes the fact that we can identify a color even when the object we are seeing is being illuminated by different wavelengths of light.  That is, look at a red ball outdoors or in our living room, under bluish or warmer light and you can still tell it is red.  For most of history people have recognized this was a fact but were unable to explain how it works.  It took Edwin Land, creator of the Polaroid camera, to figure it out.


The ability of painters like Raphael to depict the world is simply astonishing.

Land discovered that the cone receptors in the eye are modified by three different types of “filters” – essentially red, green and blue.  These produce BW information with three different ranges of contrast (much as the Kodachrome process does).  The brain takes this information and calculates what the color must be in order to create these different contrasts.  The end result is our subjective experience of what we call color.

Of course, if your eyes and brain are functioning properly this happens as unconsciously as the rest of our experience of vision.  You need to make no conscious effort to see a dramatic landscape, a beautiful woman or to know what color a red ball is.  Seeing is an automatic process that we pretty much take for granted.

But we know that human abilities and performance very greatly among individuals.  Some are more naturally athletic than others, sing better, are more gifted when it comes to numbers and math, are better draughtsmen and so forth.  Any species survives and thrives  because of the genetic variation among its members.  So it stands to reason that some people see better than others.


Leonardo da Vinci had such a great eye he could stop the motion of flying birds or waves.

This fact becomes very obvious when we talk about painters.  A painter creates a visual images from scratch, starting with a blank piece of paper, a plaster wall or canvas.  Traditionally (at least before the development of abstract art), and before the advent of photography, we relied on the ability of painters to capture a version a version of reality in their work that could be shared with the culture.  The technical ability of some famous painters to depict aspects of reality is totally astonishing.  They possessed the ability to see in ways most of us can’t and to use their skills to create amazing representation of what they saw.

Leonardo Da Vinci supposedly had such a great eye that he could watch birds flying or waves crashing on the short and create a “stop action” image in his mind he could use as the basis for an accurate drawing.  This kind of ability represents a special talent that most simply don’t possess.


The Brownie, introduced in 1900: You push the button, we do the rest. Photography at it’s most mechanical.

There is obviously a lot of training and technique involved in (traditional) painting that is not the same in photography.  In fact, photography has been suspect as a serious art form from the beginning because of its reliance on mechanical technology.  When it comes to shooting a photo, virtually anyone can do it.  Monkeys can shoot photos.  There are blind  photographers.  As Kodak said when it invented the Brownie camera, “You push the button, we do the rest.”  Until recently there was a great deal of craft in photography required to do anything more than shoot snapshots.  We know that certain photographers have been outstanding when it came to manipulating variables use as lighting, exposure and development and printing of images.  But the mechanical nature of photography has always seemed to allow for many fewer artistic choices compared to other art forms.

But if photography was just a matter of mechanically manufactured images we wouldn’t have a long history of great photos by master photographic artists compared to all the rest.  If anybody could do it everybody would have done it.  And that has not been the case.  Looking back we can see certain photographers who produced outstanding work displaying  recognizable styles very different from what other great photographers have done.  So there is obviously something involved that goes beyond the nature of photographic equipment, technology and processes.  There is some art involved somewhere in the act of superior photography.


The idea comes first: Photographer Mel Sokolsky’s “Bubble” photos are among the most iconic in the history of fashion photography.

The “somewhere” here is the complex process we know of as visual experience.  When an excellent photographer uses a camera to shoot a photo, billions of brain cells are interacting in complex circuits to determine what he or she is seeing and how they feel about it.  Remember, emotion is always extremely important when it comes to any kind of judgement or choice.

An experienced photographer may hardly be more aware of this process than we are when we simply experience the color red.  The individual mental processes of photographers when it comes to visual experience are simply better than that of most other people and allow for superior intuitive decisions regarding what “looks good” and what does not.

This is much like the legendary painter who did a seminar at a university and a professor showed a slide of one of his paintings while waxing poetic about his use of opposing diagonal lines to create visual tension.  When asked, the painter admitted he didn’t intentionally strive to create that effect.  “As I was painting I just thought those lines belonged there,” he explained.


Even monkeys can shoot photos. And based on some published pictures, some do.

Or course, talent is only part of the equation.  Anybody developing a skill requires a lot of time, practice and experience.  Author Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to become a true master of anything.  So like other artists and craftsmen, photographers need a lot of time and experience to fully develop their talents and gifts.  The end result for the master of anything eventually is total concentration on the desired goal with almost no thought given to method or technique.

This explains why two photographers can stand side by side shooting the same subject and using basically the some equipment but one ends up with excellent photos and the other doesn’t.

This happens because cameras don’t shoot photos.  Photographers do.  And photographers can differ tremendously in the ability to see and in terms of the richness of background and experience that informs their visual experience.


Bill Dobbins is a pro photographer located in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.  He is a veteran photographer and videographer who has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:

The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Tashen)








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Electronic photography: digital camera, computers, monitors, pos production software.

By Bill Dobbins


The age of film as the primary medium of photography is over. Some photographers may still shoot photos on film – there are those who still make Daguerreotypes – but capturing images using some kind of electronic processing will be with us for the foreseeable future.

Digital photos have caused a huge disruption in the business of professional photography. It used to be a certain minimal amount of craft was necessary in order to produce useable photos even of subjects that were not very challenging.  Need some shots to publicize your local hardware store?  Best to hire a photographer to guarantee adequate results.  Publishing a magazine?  Make use of staff or reliable freelance photographers.  That’s the way if was for decades.

But no more.  Anybody can shoot promotional photos of a hardware store using an automatic digital camera or even an iPhone.  Besides which, the photos probably will be used online so don’t have to be print quality.  Put the camera on automatic, create a jpeg and then upload the file.  Easy, quick and simple.


The high end jobs are still there.  If you are Versace and have a five million dollar ad buy scheduled for the major fashion magazines you are going to spend big bucks on getting the best and most professional images possible.  And you will likely choose a very established, big name photographer because if anything goes wrong nobody can point the finger of blame at you.


High end photography like this shot of Lady GaGa for Versace demands the highest skill levels and pays the big bucks.

So the low end of the business never amounted to much, the high end is still there (although very difficult for a photographer to break in to) while the financial problems photographers are facing is largely do to jobs in that middle area going away.  Of course, while the business of photography is threatened there is more photography taking place every day than ever before.  By a very long shot.  Popular Photography reports there are 200,000 images uploaded to Facebook every minute!  It is just that most of these photos are not what we could call serious images created by photography pros.

Not only are these photos not serious, most are not very good – judged by the standards of quality photos.  Instead they are quick snapshots created by a general computer algorithm.  They are almost all jpegs, which is a compressed format that saves space by throwing away information.  They are shot by people with little no training or experience as visual artists.  This is bad news for professional photographers, but it is not the first time something like this has happened.



Photography at the end of the 19th century was generally done using plates coated with a dry emulsion, unlike earlier technology in which the plate was coated with a web emulsion and an exposure had to be made before the chemicals dried.  After dry plates came celluloid film coated with light-sensitive silver halide crystals.

Photographers generally used large format studio cameras and even the more portable type cameras were pretty big and awkward to use.  So if you need photos shot, if you wanted a family portrait, you went to a professional photographer, paid for a photo session and then ordered prints.  But this state of affairs was totally disrupted when Kodak announced the Brownie at the beginning of the 20th century.  The change that followed was much like what is happening today.


The Brownie used roll film, not plates.  Originally, you sent the whole camera to the lab, they developed the film and returned prints with a new roll of film loaded in the camera.  Later you bought film and loaded the camera yourself. Meanwhile, if you wanted photos of your family, kids, pets or anything else you just pulled out your Brownie.

“You push the button, we do the rest.”



The age of the snapshot did not destroy the business of professional photography but it did change the playing field.  Early in the century pros were still relying on large view cameras and equipment like the bulky Graphlex, but that also changed when Leica introduced quality 35mm cameras and lenses and medium format cameras like the Rolleiflex took the place or larger formats like 4X5.  But this was also the golden age of print.  Magazines and newspapers that were hungry for images bought a plethora of photos from all sorts of photographers.  Businesses published ads in those magazines and newspapers and they needed pictures, too. So what was lost to Brownie snapshots was replaced by editorial and commercial print work

Unfortunately, print is now going away, too.  Magazines and newspapers are cutting back or going out of business.  Except for the high-end ads being produced by big time ad agencies, the demand for both editorial and commercial photos is much, much less – and the payments for those photos that are bought are hugely diminished.  None of this bodes very well for the future of professional photography.


If Ansel Adams were working today, he’d shoot digital and be a Photoshop master.


So the question is this: Why do we need professional photographers at all? There are two immediate answers to this:

(1) Quality photos are more effective than mediocre ones when it comes to grabbing the eye, sticking in the mind and selling and promoting products, services and careers.

(2) Visual data captured on a card in a camera is not finished photos.  This ia only the raw material for finished images, in the same way a BW negative or a quick proof are not the same as a carefully made print.

In many circumstances, digital images can capture a lot more information more easily than possible with film. But that information need to be manipulated and interpreted to create the best possible final image.  Ansel Adams made a career out of figuring out how to manipulate film type, exposure and development chemistry and time to produce the negative he wanted. And then proceeded to use a myriad of techniques, including a lot of dodging and burning, to produce a master print.  In the digital age he would totally understand why photographers spend so much effort on using software like Photoshop and Lightroom to produce images with just the right amount of brightness, darkness, contrast, saturation, sharpness as well as extensive dodging and burning using electronic means.

Cameras don’t shoot quality images.  Talented and experienced photographers do.  Those millions of images uploaded on line largely go unnoticed and get lost in the “noise.”  People can’t be relied to react to most of them emotionally or to remember then for any length of time.  As the saying goes, a monkey with a motor drive will create at leas some effective photos but that is something you should hardly rely on if quality photos are a necessary part of your business plan.

Snapshots are just about capturing a moment in time without any attempt to produce a really effective and memorable image.  They are great for what they are.  Ansel Adams used to shoot snapshots of his family.  He knew the difference between his art and just making a record of the moment.

The problem is too many people don’t know the difference – and many of them are publishers, art directors and others in charge of acquiring and selecting images that their business depends on for its success.  If they are under 30, that is even more likely.  They have grown up with digital and often don’t know the difference.

To me, that is more of a threat to the business of photography than almost anything else.


Camera don’t shoot photos. Photographers do.

Bill Dobbins is a pro photographer located in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.  He is a veteran photographer and videographer who has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:

The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Tashen)






Bill Dobbins and model large (1 of 1)

Bill Dobbins is an experienced photographer located in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.





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Promo for my exhibition at the Wave Photogalleryy, Brescia Italy


I read an interesting quote in a book recently: “It would hardly be a revolution if everyone agreed with it at the beginning, would it?”  This applies to most areas of our culture, from taste and social conventions, fashion, psychology and even medicine and scientific knowledge.

This especially applies to my photos of aesthetically developed female muscle, which goes beyond the images themselves and applies to all of the categories listed above.  My photos call into question a whole range of ideas and beliefs regarding women, women’s bodies, their physical limitations as well as conventional beliefs regarding gender, femininity and sexual identity.


Ms. Olympia 1980 – In the beginning was definition.

There is a lot involved here.  But but respond positively or negatively to the pictures without appreciating how much is involved.  In my opinion, it is all those underlying cultural challenges that make the photos art.


Actually, the idea of art as a disruptive force is relatively new.  There was no avant garde until the modern art market developed in the early 19th century.  Throughout history, art was mostly done on commission.  The church, a government or wealthy patron contacted an artist and ordered a specific painting or sculpture.  The style of acceptable art changed but very slowly.  Fresco painting on wet plaster, as in the Sistine Chapel, gave way to oil painting.  The development of perspective techniques replaced the depiction of the world as a flat plane common in the middle ages.  Sculptors took advantage of technical advances to do every more ambitious bronze and marble statutes.


The elite female bodybuilding physique is living sculpture.

But starting in about the 1830s, artists began to increasingly create works on their own initiative to be sold in galleries by artist’s agents.  This gave rise to what we now call “modern art” – and more recently post-modern art.  For the first time the art world was concerned with the idea of “progress,” artists competed for the attention of collectors and there were rapid – certainly by historic standards – changes and evolution in terms of techniques, styles and subject matter.  The avant garde became a la mode.


Of course, there was a lot of resistance to these changes.  The art establishment kept declaring that certain works weren’t really art and their creators not legitimate artists.  But opposition was eventually overwhelmed.  An art movement like Impressionism was originally rejected by the establishment (the  name itself was originally mean to be derogatory) and it has become perhaps the most popular style of art in history.  \


Bodybuilding is amount building muscle according to specific aesthetic standards – Juliette Bergmann

Nowadays, there is a constant search for novelty in the art market – although some of the “new” is often retro – but there isn’t much that is actually controversial.  Rarely does anybody get deeply offended or made angry by a work of art.  Mayor Giulliani made a fuss over a painting of the Virgin Mary in a museum and Serrano photo “Piss Christ” raised a short term hubbub the overall culture was not much shocked nor did it care.  “Burning Babies: Film At Eleven” – When we see news footage of death and destruction on a daily basis not much has long last shock effect nowadays.


But somehow my photos of aesthetically muscular women do shock a lot of people, which came as a surprise to me when I first realized this.  I started photographing these women in the earlier days of the development of bodybuilding for women in the late 1970s.  The women in those days hadn’t been training seriously for very long, it takes any years to create a really well-developed muscular physique so they were highly defined but not very big.  So many found them “cute” and they generally got a pretty good response from the public.  Bodybuilding pioneer Lisa Lyon was featuring in Playboy. Women’s bodybuilding competitions were shown on television.  Ms. Olympia Cory Everson had her own exercise television series.


The Ancient Greeks celebrate wrestlers – but no female wrestlers like this. Karla Nelsen, Joanne Lee

But the women kept training over the years and when genetically gifted individual work out with weights over time they get bigger and more muscular. So what was initially seen as cute soon became unsettling, even threatening.  Why?  Because people and the culture in general have some very fundamental  and deeply-held views on women, women’s roles, women’s bodies and on gender and sexual identity.  Pumping Iron author Charles Gaines has pointed out that aesthetic female muscle is a “new archetype” – something brand new, never before seen in any culture at any time or place in history.  So my photos represent a cultural development that many find unacceptable.


Everybody loves kittens but not everyone likes cats.  Modern female bodybuilder look hugely different than they did in the beginning.  Bodybuilding is the Grand Opera of the physique and it is by intention extreme as well as aesthetic.  The bodybuilder physique is to the average body as a trained operatic voice is to a pop singer.  It is not supposed to be like anything else and not supposed to be judges by standards other than those of bodybuilding.

Think of the fable of the ugly duckling.  A poor little duckling is considered unattractive and is ostracized by the other in the flock.  Than other birds show up in the pond and he realizes he is not a duck at all, but a swan.  Actually, the moral of this story is missed by most.  It is not that swans are more beautiful than ducks, to your eyes, but that ducks should be judged by duck standards and swans by swan standards.  In the same regard, bodybuilders should be judged as bodybuilders and likewise for other types of bodies and beauty.


Many feel threatened if they find photos of muscular women sexually attractive.


Actually, there is another aspect of this controversy that is mostly not recognized.  Just as aggressive homophobes frequently turn out to be suppressed homosexuals, many who are offended by aesthetic female muscle are likely to have problems with their own sexual and gender identity.  There are plenty  of men (and women) who are turned on by female muscle but others who find themselves attractive but don’t want to admit it.  Some are worried that they might be gay because they are attracted to women who “look like men.” Women can be threatened by such buff physiques because they are insecure about how their own bodies look.

So there is a lot that can be doing on in the minds of people who look at my photos.  I have thousands of fans all over the world and I’ve sold a lot of fine art books and some prints.  But the people who appreciate my work represent such a very tiny percentage of the potential audience.  But there is also a generational force at work.  Older people remember when there was no aesthetic female muscle and when the women were much less muscular than they later became.  Younger individuals have never lived in a world in which there were no female bodybuilders.  They might find this look attractive or not, but they certainly aren’t shocked.


BW Fine Art Poster-2

A collection of my BW fine art exhibition photos.


A noted scientist once was quoted as saying new scientific theories frequently don’t replace the old ones.  Rather, young scientists who accept the newest ideas gradually take over and supplant the old guard.   Aesthetic female muscle will also achieve more general acceptance as the young gradually take the place of the old.  The same thing is also happening with other aspects of the culture such as legalization of marijuana, gay marriage and rights for transsexuals.  The world changes much faster nowadays than every before – then was every dreamed of before.

What I’m hoping for and expecting is that my photos and the women who are in them will eventually cease to be as controversial and my work can be better evaluated not as a novelty but as serious art.  People can see what it looks like – but what does it really mean? What does it tell the world about women and their place in our culture in terms of things like physiology, sociology, psychology as well as gender and sexual identity?  How much of a revolution do these women represent and what is the significance?


Ansel Adams shot desert landscapes – but never featuring models like this. Avis Ware.

I remember that for most of his career Ansel Adams was considered a photographer of pretty landscapes and his prints were available for very modest amounts.  It was only at the very end he was viewed as a great artist who captured the essence of the American wilderness in a condition unspoiled by development, tourists and other aspects of modern life.  Commercial fashion photos of the past are exhibited as fine art in galleries and museums and sought after by collectors.  A lot of documentary pictures from the past are now classified as fine art.

It is a fact that about 50% of human beings are women and my photos of aesthetic female muscle tell us something about women that was never known before because this kind of body never existed before.  So female bodybuilders and my photos of them represent a genuine revolution.

But this would hardly be a revolution if everyone accepted it right from the beginning, would it?


Over time women bodybuilders continue to get bigger and more muscular.





A gorgeous body against a dramatic landscape.

A gorgeous body against a dramatic landscape.






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My photo studio is located in Los Angeles.  I have wonderful photo locations easily available including the beach, mountains and deserts not too many miles away.  This is why I encourage those who want the best possible photos to come to book photo session and come here to L.A.

I get asked a lot if I plan to be other places around the country, if I am going to be at various competitive events and if I will be available to do photos.  But even if I am traveling to other cities and attending various contests, in most cases the kind of photos I am able to shoot would not be of the quality that like about my work and which makes them what to do photo sessions with me.


Shooting in the studio involves total control over lighting, make up, props and styling.

With few exceptions, shooting in hotels or various places around a city does not provide the same picture possibilities available when I am working in Los Angeles.  There are mountain locations near Las Vegas that are incredibly beautiful and beaches near some Florida cities but few other areas provide the same kinds of possibilities.  Photographers often go to contests and shoot photos of competitors wherever they can but one reason people like my images is that I rarely do that.  There is simply no substitute for a well-equipped studio or a dramatic location.


Venice Beach is one of many lifestyle locations available in Los Angeles – Timea Majorova

If a magazine were footing the bills or cost were no object things would be somewhat different.  I could travel with lighting equipment and an assistant or rent a studio in a distant location.  I could pay for a permit to shoot at very interesting locations (Weider once rented Hoover Dam for a photo shoot – a very expensive proposition).  But in reality it is much easier and cheaper for photo models to simply fly to Los Angeles to do a photo session – or photo sessions.

Coming to Los Angeles to shoot simply involves an airline ticket, a hotel room and some food expenses.  Not only to you shoot the best quality photos but you get to spend time in L.A., which is a popular vacation spot for very good reasons.  The Southern California climate is especially inviting in winter when you are coming from a somewhere that snow and ice is what greets you when you go outside.

Joele Smith, RRC

This is a location you have seen often in movies – like The Big Country with Gregory Peck.

For anyone interested in coming to California to do photos with me, I am happy to help with travel advice and information. For example I can recommend hotels in various price ranges and at locations near the beach, the gym or great shopping areas.  And I can advise regarding where things are in Los Angeles and how to get around the city – where public transportation is not as available as in many cities.

I can offer studio photos sessions, trips out to great locations or both.  Location work is more expensive because so much time and travel is involved but considering the huge number of amazing photos you get the bang for the buck factor is very high.


Some types of photos are only possible shooting in the studio. Dayana Cadeau

In any event, I’m happy to discuss any or all of this and to help when it comes to planning and making arrangements.  I just want to point out that my photos have been in all the magazines for decades, have been published in two fine art books and exhibited in two museums and a number of art galleries. The reason is my pictures are different and people appreciate their quality.

The best way for me to achieve this quality is to do photo shoots where I have control over the light, such as in my studio or in dramatic and beautiful locations.  The easiest way to achieve this is for my photo models to come to work with me in Los Angles.

By the way, I can also shoot video – both in the studio and on location as well.  Word is that in a few years Facebook will be mostly video rather than still photos.  Here is an example:


If this is something you’d like to do please get in touch and let’s talk about it.

Bill Dobbins Female Physique Websites

Bill Dobbins Photography


Bill Dobbins and model large (1 of 1)

It’s GOOD to be the photographer.




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We live in an age of free porn on the Internet and any magazines should keep this in mind when they are thinking about publishing photos of sexy women to attract readers.

Penthouse went out of business at one point trying to chase the Internet in terms of erotic content.  Playboy is no longer publishing nudes.  With no many explicit photos and videos available to anyone of any age with a computer for no cost, why should readers pay for magazines just to look at women in bikinis or sexy outfits?


No matter how sexy or attractive, fit and fabulous females are serious, competitive athletes – not passive sex objects.

This comes to mind because I just saw a fitness/bodybuilding magazine with a layout featuring mild, conventional images of a generic model in a bikini.  Unfortunately,  in terms of sales this is just wasted space and opportunity.  Some readers might enjoy these photos but very few would ever buy the magazine to be able to take those own these pictures and take them home.  And with magazine publishing under such stress for a variety of reasons, every single page possible of every issue should be targeted at selling additional copies.


So what kind of photos of women might achieve this purpose when it comes to the fitness/bodybuilding industry?  To begin with,  you need women who look like what i call “fit and fabulous” – women who obviously train and diet the way the readers of the magazines do and use the products being sold by the advertisers.  Women with aesthetically developed and defined muscles.  There are 10s of thousands of these Supermodels of the 21st Century who look great and are available to help sell magazines.

And these women have millions of avid fans, followers and supporters – all of whom are a potential audience for magazines that feature fit/fab females as part of their content.

Joele Smith, RRC

Figure competitors train and diet like bodybuilders. They simply have different genetics, goals and objectives.


A second criteria is to publish photos of these women that focus on and calls attention to the sculptural beauty and definition of their athletic bodies.  Too often you see women with aesthetically muscular physiques being presented in a way that minimizes these qualities rather than emphasizing them.  Trying to present these women in photos designed to make them look more like conventional, less-muscular models is a mistake.  Their real audience is not attracted to this and a mainstream audience that prefers women with less athletic bodies is not fooled.

When you have a brand you need to focus on that identity and promote it as much as possible.

Sha-ri Pendelton-bench

Women athletes in most sports do bodybuilding-type weight training to improve performance.


Another consideration is celebrity.  We live in a culture that worships and responds to fame.  At a time when magazines are all having trouble, publications that feature celebrities like People are doing fine.  In the past, Joe Weider used his magazines to make a lot of bodybuilders famous – from Dave Draper and Arnold Schwarzenegger to women like Rachel McLish, Cory Everson and Sharon Bruneau.  The magazines don’t often make this effort nowadays.  But the Internet does. Check out Google and you’ll find a lot more pages focusing on women with muscular bodies than men.  And you’ll find some fit/fab women with more than a million followers and quite a number whose followers number in the hundreds of thousands.

If you feature some of these women in a magazine and have them tell their friends, and fans on social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to buy copies, you end up with a million or more targeting sales promos going out over the Web.  You get this publicity essentially for free – and ironically you are taking advantage the same electronic system to sell magazines that has been working to limit the sale of print publications.

Lenda Murray Promo Final

Lenda Murray is one of the all-time most popular celebrities in bodybuilding for women


Another thing to consider is that photos published in print can look much better than those viewed as pixels on a screen (at least until computer monitors and tablet screens are considerably upgraded).  You don’t have to have magazines “turned on” or connected to anything.  You can carry them around in a brief case or back pack and refer to them on trains or plans or in restaurants or a doctor’s office.  Magazines still have a convenience that electronic devices do not.

But this only makes sense as long at the content of magazines is as strong and effective as possible.

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Bodybuilding is the Grand Opera of the physique and by definition is supposed to result in extreme bodies.


Increased magazine sales depend to a large extent on including “must see” photos and “must read” articles, in the words of legendary magazine editor Tina Brown.  Uninteresting or “filler” content are not going to do the job.  Magazines have to make the effort to make their all of their pages so compelling that readers will be very disappointing if they happen to miss an issue.

So this means no more “girlie” photos in fitness/bodybuilding magazines but instead high quality, artistic photos of fit and fabulous females designed to call attention to the sculptural beauty of their bodies – which is the thing that sets them apart and makes them so special and worthy of the attention of readers and fans.

In the digital age we are inundated with “pretty good” photos shot in electronic cameras.  These all just get lost in the noise.  Art directors should ask themselves where a magazine cover would make a successful poster, something fans would want to display on their walls and look at every day.  They should consider whether photos they publish are strong enough to be exhibited in museums or art galleries.  They should carefully think about whether the images they are planning to print are the absolutely best possible photos available.

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These gorgeous sculpted bodies don’t need to be presented as cheesecake to show their beauty.


The bottom line is that the magazines and the industry should concentrate on making the best of these women as famous as possible as well as capitalizing as much as possible on the popularity of those who already have such large and devoted fans and followers.  At present there are no magazines that include very much content – and many with none of this content at all – which is aimed at attracting a readership that includes either the women or those who admire and support them.

But if you want to sell as many fitness/bodybuilding magazines as possible it should be obvious that including content that includes really striking fit and fabulous women, focusing the the ones with the greatest degree of celebrity and working hard to make as many more as famous as  possible has got to be a winning strategy.


It’s GOOD to be the photographer!









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Women’s bodybuilding creates the Grand Opera of female body.


When Pumping Iron author Charles Gaines first saw women bodybuilders in the late 1970s he declared they represented a “new archetype” – a kind of body never seen before in any culture anywhere in the world at any time in history.  Women who develop their muscles for aesthetic purposes are “something new under the sun” and represent something radically new and highly significant to human culture.

The ancient Greeks celebrated the athletic male body with paintings and sculpture but the women in their art tended to be shown as soft and shapely, manifestations of Aphrodite, goddess of love and sexuality, whom the Romans called Venus.  An artist like Michelangelo  working centuries later also focused on powerful and muscular male figures while his women, although often possessing powerful bodies, are decidedly not muscular to anything like the same extent.


Today we live in an age that regularly celebrates “feminism” to one degree or another.  The 19th Amendment gave US women the right to vote in 1920.  Throughout  the rest of the 20th century we saw women succeeding in business, the professions, sport and politics.  Times have changed to such a degree that we are looking at the likelihood the next president will be a woman.  This represents a tremendous culture change in a relatively short time.


Ms. Olympia 1980 – In the beginning was definition.

But when bodybuilding for women came into being a very few decades ago they found very few allies among the feminists.  Women who nowadays seem no more muscular than a contemporary fitness model were demonized for being freakish and “looking like men.” There were periods of greater relative acceptance but recently the International Federation of Bodybuildings (IFBB) dropped women’s bodybuilding from the Olympia world professional championships and Arnold Schwarzenegger did the same thing at his Arnold’s Sports Festival.

A federation with the word “bodybuilders” in the tile continues to support competition for male bodybuilders and for women to compete in fitness, figure, physique and bikini – but no female bodybuilding.  The Arnold Sports Festival has places for judo, dance, jump rope and pole dancing has no room for women’s bodybuilding, which was one of the founding competitions of the event.

In the past the IFBB has adopted “guidelines” that dictated women bodybuilders would not try as hard or achieve the same level of success as their male counterparts.  Politics has created some enormously unfair outcomes in competitions.  But at

no point during the history of female muscle competition has the National Organization for Women or others who advocate for equal treatment for women bothered to come to the support of these aesthetically muscular females. It is as if the culture is all for women maximizing their talents, abilities and potentials in all areas – except when it comes to the development of their bodies.  Women judges, scientists, lawyers and even presidents, fine.  Women with aesthetic and athletically developed muscles, that’s just going too far!

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Actually, there are two aspects of aesthetic female muscle that need to be considered.  One is how long it took for women to discover this physical alternative available to them.  The other is how easy it was to do once they made this discovery.  Once female muscle contests were established in not very many years we saw women bodybuilders putting on impressive muscle mass and muscularity, followed by women with different genetics and goals filling up the ranks of fitness, figure, physique and fit bikini competitions.

Today there are tens of thousands of women competitors in various classes and categories all over the world – and at least hundreds of thousands of fans and supporters.  Beginning with a few minimally developed women in 1977 and 1978 the idea of women developing their muscles for primarily aesthetic purposes has taken firm hold in modern culture.

So what does this tell us?  For one thing, it demonstrates how natural it is for at least some women to develop muscle mass and hyper-muscularity.  For those with the appropriate genetics, a few months to a few years working in a gym can result in a body capable of competing in one category of muscle contest or another.  If this is true now it means it was always true.  Some women throughout history have always been capable of building this kind of body.  They simply weren’t  encouraged or allowed to.  Since most human in history have been peasant farmers it means that women have had to work in the fields alongside their men and have had to develop physical strength.


Lightweight female bodybuilders like Juliette Bergmann has all the qualities of champions – just in a smaller package.


But women have never been included in the celebration of aesthetic physical development that began with the Greeks and continued on through the Renaissance and beyond.  There have been many categories of achievement throughout time that were open to men and not to women, and developing an aesthetically muscular athletic physique is just one of them.

But one problem is that our world has formed its opinions about the nature and capabilities of women on the basis of such things as the roles they have been assigned to by human culture.  Women have been considered too emotional and not intellectually gifted enough to assume roles we have traditionally reserved for men.  Such as voting, for example.  So recognizing that at least some women can develop beautiful and highly muscular bodies, that they are capable of remarkable athletic performance and feats of strength and can function in such roles as police officer, fight fighter or combat soldier has met with considerable opposition.


After bodybuilding came fitness, figure, physique and fit bikini.

Of course, not all women are endowed with either the genetics nor the psychology to develop big muscles and muscularity.  But neither are all men.  Gyms nowadays are full of women who are superior in terms of muscle and strength to many of the men on the gym floor.  The biggest and strongest men will always be bigger and stronger than the biggest and strongest women.  But the world nowadays is full of females who can do a 300 pound bench press and there aren’t many men capable of matching that feat.

The kind of women who compete at the upper levels of any muscle contest don’t need to be reminded of they capabilities.  Nor do the top women athletes in the Olympics or other sports competition need anyone’s permission to focus on achieving their best possible performance.  They are far past the point where what people in general, their detractors or the overall culture can say or do to dissuade or discourage them.


But there is still everyone else to convince.  There are women without the highest level of motivation who need to be informed as to their own potentials and encouraged to strive to be their best.  There are husbands, boyfriends and family members who should stop being part of the problem and become a factor in the solution.  There are doctors, employers, lawmakers and others who need to be bought up to date so they allow and encourage women to pursue physical and athletic improvement without being told they are too “masculine.”

We have experienced a century or so of feminism that, at least in a large part of what we call the “first world,” has opened the gates of opportunity for women wide open.  We are seeing a golden age of athletics for women, demonstrated by the fact that so many events for women in the Olympics are much more popular than the same events for men.  We may know about Michael Phelps in swimming but the female gymnasts are going to end up with the lion’s share of commercial endorsements.

Sha-ri Pendelton-bench

Nowadays women athletes in most sports improve their bodies with weight training.

But muscle competition is not about sports performance.  It is muscular development for its own sake, judged on the basis of aesthetics – not performance.  Male bodybuilders have always faced a certain about of criticism for being too narcissistic.  But because bodybuilding-type weight training has become so wide spread that we see the same kind of muscular development in all sort of athletes in a variety of sports – and even in the bodies of male models, movie stars and rap artists.  So hyper-muscularity for men has become pretty well established.

Not so with the women.  Within the federations governing competition, there is not much opposition to women with muscle in the “beauty contest” categories like fitness or figure – although the judging standards have always fought a rear guard action to try and slow down the increasing muscular development of the competitors as much as possible.  But because the female bodybuilders are frequently so much bigger this has kind of made the world safe for the smaller competitors who seem to much less extreme by comparison.


Women worried abut their hips, thighs and butts being out of shape should take a look at the bodies of muscle competitors.


But dropping women’s bodybuilding from the Olympia and the Arnold represents a total betrayal of the these competitors whom the IFBB is tasked with supporting and promoting as they do the other athlete members of the federation.  This attitude toward the women represents a rejection of the idea that females should be able to develop any and all of their physical or mental abilities to whatever degree this is possible.  Instead, it dictates that the culture has the authority and responsibility for maintaining whatever stereotype of femininity and the nature of the female body it cares to impose.

When we see women in some cultures being forced to cover up their bodies, not allowed to go to school or even to drive a car we rise up in protest.  But the fact is the same kind of thing is also prevalent right here at home when women with the genetics to build large, symmetrical, proportionate and beautifully shaped muscle and to use diet to create extreme definition and muscularity are criticized and penalized for doing so.

It is time to add the choice to develop their muscles to the other freedoms for women our culture has come to celebrate over the years.  Women have the right to decide to develop whatever of their abilities that are within their physical capabilities.


Lenda Murray, 8-time Ms. Olympia – a contest that the IFBB no longer allows.


While female bodybuilding is under attack in some quarters, it is good to keep in mind that not all federations and organizations have the same point of view.  There are contest for female bodybuilding being held successfully all over the world.  It is also important to realize that every time in modern history that women have attempted to break through boundaries and achieve in new areas they have encountered opposition.  Over time this opposition has been overcome and women been able to move ahead toward their goals.

This will no doubt be the case over time with bodybuilding for women.Kerstin Bill Dobbins DV-6323