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What a Picture is Really Worth

  • Written by Doug Schneider

Iron ShotWe all know the saying about a picture being worth a thousand words. For some things, yes, but not when it comes to bodybuilding.

While it’s true that a single picture can tell a story that would otherwise take many words to describe, I believe that a single picture can capture and convey something that no number of words can do justice to. A great picture also captures a moment that will never happen again – a snippet of time is frozen and immortalized. The photo on our cover, of Scott Doucette at the 2012 Physique Canada Canadian Championship, is an example of this. Photographer Dave Paul nailed the timing perfectly as Scott hit the abdominal-and-thigh pose, solidifying that moment forever. The picture that's featured above right, which was also shot by Dave Paul and used as an Iron Shot last December, is another example. Will that ever happen with Simon Proteau, Carlo Lombard, and Rob DeLuca again? Luckily, Dave was there to capture it.

A great picture can also be so inspiring and motivating that it can change someone’s life. I remember one pro bodybuilder telling me that when he was young he saw a picture of a certain bodybuilder and was so inspired by it that he immediately dropped all the sports he was competing in and began to lift weights. I suppose that words could also cause such a life-changing experience, but insofar as bodybuilding goes, pictures are much more effective at doing it. I can’t imagine how many men started bodybuilding because of pictures they had seen.

The story is similar for me. When I first got into the media side of bodybuilding, it wasn’t to write, but to take pictures, and I was drawn to doing it because of past photos I’d seen. If I were to think about whose pictures had inspired me the most, I would have to say Englishman George Butler’s and Canadian Jimmy Caruso’s.

Butler’s 1974 book, Pumping Iron: The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding (co-authored by Charles Gaines), is chock-full of incredible photographs that captured bodybuilding in a raw, authentic, and inspiring way. The cover, which features bodybuilder Ed Corney, is one of the most memorable bodybuilding photos ever taken. The images in that book inspired me. (The book also inspired the 1977 movie, Pumping Iron, which featured Arnold Schwarzenegger and helped to make him a star.)

Arnold SchwarzeneggerCaruso began photographing bodybuilders long before Butler, and his best photos were quite a bit different – black-and-white studio shots capturing some of the best physiques of what many consider bodybuilding’s Golden Age, which started more or less when Arnold came onto the scene in the mid-1960s, and ended shortly after his first retirement in about 1975. (Arnold came out of retirement once to compete at the 1980 Mr. Olympia, but never competed again after that.) Caruso’s amazing photography had a tremendous, enduring impact on the sport; in fact, I often see some of his incredible shots of Arnold gracing the pages of bodybuilding magazines today.

I’m not the only publisher to take a great interest in photography. I talked to the late Robert Kennedy many times about the subject. (Robert was the founder and publisher of MuscleMag, as well as numerous other magazines; he died of cancer last year.) Robert wasn’t just a publisher; he was also a photographer and a painter. He was a man who had an eye for up-and-coming talent and was the first to recognize the brilliance of Paul Buceta’s work. Robert not only featured Paul’s photos in his magazines, but he also put him on contract to ensure his images kept appearing there year after year.

Arnold SchwarzeneggerHowever, Robert told me that one of his favorite shots was a photo that George Butler took of Arnold Schwarzenegger at the 1974 Mr. Olympia – the picture shows Arnold with his back to the audience, bringing his hands upwards. When he described the shot to me I knew exactly which photo he was referring to because it’s long been one of my favorites too. It’s just one more example of an image capturing a point in time and immortalizing it.

The importance I place on photos is exactly why we’re increasing our photographic coverage in SeriousAboutMuscle.com. Over the winter we started adding training shots to our galleries, which we will continue to do in the years to come. And when the Physique Canada competition season starts, we’re going to add more contest photos as well. Of course, for years we’ve had our Iron Shots and Hot Shots galleries, which we add to every month, and we have some other projects in the works that will likely turn into something significant on this site – I just can’t tell you about them yet or it would spoil the surprise. Finally, we’re going to invite more photographers to work with us so we can be a showcase for some of the best photography around.

We don’t want to dispute the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words, since it may well be true for many things. For bodybuilding, though, a great picture is something no amount of words can replace.

Doug Schneider
SeriousAboutMuscle.com Founder and Publisher

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