One photographer has captured the intense reality of being a competing bodybuilder

One photographer has captured the intense reality of being a competing bodybuilder

For the last decade, Brian Finke has been a behind the scenes photographer at bodybuilding shows, capturing some of the most intense moments. His collection of great photographs shows how tedious and cut-throat bodybuilding actually is and how these athletes get ready to compete.

You can see at certain stages when tension levels are high and competitors become anxious and stressed.

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It was in 2003 that he shot the Mr. Olympia competition in Las Vegas, the premier bodybuilding event in the calendar.

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The Mr. Olympia was started in 1965 for those who had won the Mr. Universe competition.

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This is where it began for Finke and he hasn’t stopped since. “I had always been taking a lot of sports photos, but I was fascinated by how extreme a sport and lifestyle bodybuilding was.”

“So I continued to explore this subculture, trying to showcase the emotional and quirkier moments both onstage and offstage. The stuff we normally don’t get to see.”


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Finke has seen many bodybuilders over the years and says that there is no single type of person that becomes a bodybuilder.

“People come to it from all sorts of places. One woman I photographed used to be a sorority girl in college and became a professional bodybuilder.”

“People come to the sport from different backgrounds, and the reasons why they do it vary.”

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He talks about how tedious the tanning ritual can be and how it has evolved over the years as airbrushes is now mainly used.

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There is fierce competition for both men and women; both are as equally cut-throat.

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“I never asked anyone to pose for the camera; the participants were there to compete and I was there to observe and photograph.”

“When I’m photographing, I feel like I can never make anything up that’s better than what’s naturally happening.”

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He talked about what is was like being backstage with the competitors; “Once when I was photographing at a competition, the women competitors were backstage pumping up…”

“… There were dumb bells scattered around on the floor and the women were wearing these great high heels – the juxtaposition was badass.”

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……“I was crawling around of the floor photographing details – just the high heels and weights – when the contestants started making fun of me, saying I had a foot fetish.”

…..“Whatever, it was a great shot.”

This is the lengths Finke went to do his job.

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