Physique Photographers II


John Graham "Clive Norman" nd


John Graham.
"Clive Norman."



Images of the body in the physique magazines of the 1940s-1960s are invariably smooth, muscular and defined. A perfect example of the type can be seen above. The images rely heavily on the iconography of classical Rome and Greece to legitimise their homoerotic overtones. Use was made of columns, drapery, and sets that presented the male body as the contemporary equivalent of idealised male beauty of ancient times. As the 1950's turned into the 1960s other stereotypes became available to the photographers - for example the imagery of the marine, the sailor, the biker, the boy on a tropical island, the wrestler, the boxer, the mechanic. The photographs become more raunchy in their depiction of male nudity. In the 1950s, however, classical aspirations were never far from the photographers minds when composing the images as can be seen in the examples below, taken from a book edited by Domenique called 'Art in Physique Photography'. This book, illustrated with drawings of classical warrior figures by David Angelo, is subtitled:

'An Album of the world's finest photographs of the male physique'


John Graham "Detail from Parthenon Frieze" nd

Lon of New York in London "Jim Stevens" nd


 John Graham.
"Detail from Parthenon Frieze."
Elgin Marble Friezes. British Museum.


Lon of New York in London
"Jim Stevens."



David Angelo "Untitled" nd


David Angelo.
Illustration for
'Art in Physique
Photography '.


Here we observe a link between art and the body. This connection was used to confirm the social acceptability of physique photographs of the male body while still leaving them open to other alternative readings. One alternative reading was made by gay men who could buy these socially acceptable physique magazines to gaze with desire upon the naked form of the male body. It is interesting to note that with the advent of the first openly gay pornography magazines after the ruling on obscenity by the Supreme Court in America in the late 1960's (See the Thesis notes on this subject from The One Institute), classical figures were still used to justify the desiring gaze of the camera and viewer upon the bodies of men. Another reason used by early gay pornography magazines to justify photographs of men having sex together was that the images were only for educational purposes!