BESS ADLER | Bodybuilding

SPOTLIGHT HOME

In this series, I document a community whose members devote massive energy to strengthening and displaying their bodies. Rigorous and exciting competitions determine who has the most perfect physique. Line up, walk, display, flex, and judge. These men and women march across a well-lit stage, stop midway and expose sculpted bodies, the product of perseverance and hard labor.

Bodybuilders use weightlifting, diet, tanning, and oils to pursue highly specific results. Their appearance might seem exaggerated or strange to people from the outside world, but within the bodybuilding community, inflated biceps and over-sized chests represent beauty. However, with this allure comes a demand for lifestyle sacrifices and arduous workouts.

Training for competitions is a year-long process and almost a full-time job. Bodybuilders work out six or seven days of the week for three to four hours a day. Contestants follow extreme and highly-regimented diets prior and subsequent to the competitions. Cooking and grocery shopping are often time-consuming, as some routines call for eight meals a day. Bodybuilders struggle to balance their life, which includes training, jobs, families, and sleep. Regardless, many participants relish the experience of being onstage and setting new goals for themselves at every competition. They describe competitions as euphoric. Even though performing and having one’s body scrutinized can be nerve-wracking, the attention bodybuilders receive is highly gratifying, especially for the winner.

As a photographer, I am interested in capturing the tradition of bodybuilding, and the competitive, robust nature of the shows. My series aims to bring viewers closer to this insular and ritualistic community. In the process, I hope to raise questions about the sacrifices we all make in pursuing our ideals.

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