HISTORICAL PRESSINGS

 
 
Anonymous.
"Dave Willoughby."
n.d.
Anon "Dave Willoughby" nd

 

 

The physique of the muscular body had appeal across all class boundaries and bodybuilding was one of the first social activities that could be undertaken by any man no matter what his social position. Bodybuilding reinforced the power of traditional heterosexual behaviour - to be the breadwinner and provider for women, men had to see themselves as strong, tough and masculine. A fit, strong body is a productive body able to do more work through its shear physical bulk and endurance. Unlike the anonymous bodies in the photographs of Holland Day and von Gloeden here the bodies are named as individuals, men proud of their masculine bodies. It is the photographers that are anonymous, as though they are of little consequence in comparison to the flesh that is placed before their lenses.

 

 

Anon "Otto Arco and von Mogyorossy
Anonymous.
"Otto Arco and
von Mogyorossy."
n.d.

 

I suggest that the impression the muscular body made on individual men was also linked to developments in other areas (art, construction and architecture for example), which were themselves influenced by industrialisation and its affect on social structure. In her book 'Space, Time and Perversion: Essays on the Politics of Bodies' (Routledge, 1995), Elizabeth Grosz says that the city is an important element in the social production of sexually active bodies. Not only sexually active bodies but I believe athletically sexualised bodies as well. As the cities became industrialized and the population of cities increased in the Victorian era, space to build new buildings was at a premium. The 1890s saw the building of the first skyscrapers in America, impressive pieces of engineering that towered above the city skyline. Their object was to get more internal volume and external surface area onto the same amount of space of the buildings 'footprint', its ground area coverage, so that the building held more, was more visible to the human eye and was more presitigious for it's owner. I suggest that this construction has parallels in the development of the muscular male body. The facade of the bodybuilder has more surface area than other men's bodies, which makes him more visible, admired and (secretly?) desired. Also, bodybuilders attempted not to be the strongest man in the world anymore, but the world's most beautiful man (which Sandow was advertised as). Again, there are parallels with skyscrapers as they were also judged on the beauty of their design.

 

Anon "Master and Slave" nd

 

Anonymous.
"Master and Slave: Tony Sansone and Harry Paschall."
n.d.

 

Further, in art the Futurists believed in the ultimate power of the machine and portrayed both the machine and the body in a blur of speed and motion. In the Age of the Machine the construction of the body became industrialised, the body becoming armoured against the outside world and the difficulty of living in it. The body became a machine, indestructible, superhuman. Of course this is ironic considering the devastation and mutilation that the First World War inflicted on the bodies of men from all over the world.

Within this demanding world men sought to confirm their dominance over women (especially after women achieved the ability to vote), and other men. Domination was affirmed partially through images of the muscular male as can be seen in the above image, although viewed through contemporary eyes a definite homoerotic element is also present. "Master and Slave" also presents us with a man who challenged the fame of Eugene Sandow. His name was Tony Sansone and he emerged as the new hero of bodybuilding around the year 1925. Graced with a perfect physique for a taller man, Sansone was more lithe than the stocky, muscular Sandow and can be seen to represent a classical heroic Grecian body, perfect in it's form. He had Valentino like features, perfect bone structure and was very photogenic, always a useful asset when selling a book of photographs of yourself!