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Portraits of ‘Beautiful Bodies’ Emphasize the Never-ending Search for Perfection

Agnieszka Rayss

Agnieszka Rayss

Perfection—having long been established as non-existent—still keeps us in the gym, coiffed, in the mirror, starving, and preening, well into our golden years. What is our own obsession with ourselves actually about? Is it that we know the end is in sight? That if we are perfect on the outside we are perfect on the inside? Photographer Agnieszka Rayss raises these questions and more in her series about bodybuilders entitled Beautiful Bodies.

Agnieszka Rayss

Agnieszka Rayss

Agnieszka Rayss

Agnieszka Rayss

Agnieszka Rayss

Agnieszka Rayss

Agnieszka Rayss

Agnieszka Rayss

  • http://www.billdobbinsphotography.com Bill Dobbins

    I’ve been photographing male and female bodybuilders for 30 years. I have published two fine art photo books: THE WOMEN: Photographs of the Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan) and MODERN AMAZONS (Taschen). I keep seeing truly ugly photos of bodybuilders published under the guise of being “art.” Bodybuilding is about seeking aesthetic perfection and the best women and men are walking pieces of sculpture. The world is full of unattractive bodybuilders just as it is unattractive people of all types. I can admire anyone who takes the time and effort to try and develop their bodies, but featuring bad bodybuilders as being representative of something significant makes no sense. The photographers and the critics involved simply don;t know what they are looking at – and show they have no real respect at what great bodybuilders have managed to achieve.

    Bill Dobbins

  • Sarah Gunn

    And you say this completely without irony, as if your idea of ‘ugly’ or ‘perfection’ or even ‘art’ has any merit to other people?!

  • http://www.billdobbinsphotography.com Bill Dobbins

    Of course everyone is entitled to their own taste. But taste and sensibility aren’t just “built in.” They are educated and developed over time by experience. That’s why there are things called art experts and art appreciation courses. I am a specialist shooting photos of aesthetic hyper-muscular bodies and my “appreciation” of these physiques is very highly developed through a great deal of experience. I have shot thousands of these images and seen many thousands more. The photos under consideration are not aesthetic and not representative of what can be achieved in terms of physical development by bodybuilding-type workouts. They tend to appeal to people with no experience of this kind of body, no appreciation of it and who in fact don ‘t know what they are looking at. I am not trying to prevent people from looking at these pictures. I am simply contributing to the process of creating better and more insightful appreciation of them. And, by the way, human beings frequently come to an overall consensus as to what is “ugly” or “art.” It is called culture.

  • Andreß

    Agnieszka Rayss doesn’t seem to want to portray beautiful bodybuilders in cliché positions the way you do, Bill. She published a book, she’s won awards and her documentary style does’t suit your taste for glamourshots. That’s okay.
    She raises questions about beautiful bodies. And in showing us pageant competitors (probably not at the level of their US-counterparts), she succeeds in my opinion.
    The nervous shuffle before going on stage, the quick pump before the pose, checking an outfit and, sneakily, the competition: all very recognizable from my point of view as a personal trainer.

    Nice series, Agnieszka.

  • http://www.billdobbinsphotography.com Bill Dobbins

    “Cliche” positions? As you indicate, in your opinion. But perhaps you need to check out my body of work, fine art photos as well as those done for magazines, the images I’ve exhibited in galleries and museums, those in my two fine art books. You want to avoid being in the position of the blind man who encounters an elephant, grabs hold of its tail and attempts to ascertain from that limited contact what the the beast is really like. You need a more comprehensive view in order to understand the shape and size of an elephant.

  • Andreß

    I have to be honest, the pictures I saw on your various websites didn’t change my mind. It was after perusing them that I posted my original reply. Then again, maybe you’re such an authority and a senior in the field that I’ve come to know your style as a standard for bodybuilding photography.

    You were probably shooting bodybuilders since before I was born and I can only judge what I’ve seen so far.
    Your comment on the series is 100% correct, BUT (bear with me here), it’s beside the point. She is not out to show the esthetic of bodybuilders. She shows us amateurs striving for unattainable perfection.

  • http://www.billdobbinsphotography.com Bill Dobbins

    Every photographer as far as she or he is an artist should be pursuing their own vision. If they are successful in achieving their own vision they are successful – regardless of the opinions of others. However the “culture” as such makes its decisions over time regarding whether the vision represents art that will be taken up and passed on. No matter the intention of of the artists or whether or not they feel they have achieved communicating their artistic vision. Success as such is therefor measure in both subjective and community terms.

  • Andreß

    Thanks for replying, Bill. I get what you’re saying.