Anyone who has done yoga, stepped on a cardio machine at the gym, or flipped a tractor tire over repeatedly at CrossFit owes a nod to Physical Culture. The idea had bubbled up previously but began coming together as a movement in the mid-1800s as people realized that sitting at a desk all day probably wasn’t that good for you. Because 19th century Europe, all of this got tied in fairly neatly with nationalism and we’ve never quite escaped a sense that the physical fitness of the people is a reflection of the health of the nation. Physical Culture and the various ways it’s been en vogue or out of fashion for the past ~175 years is fascinating and you can learn more from Dr. Warty’s paired courses “Physical Culture: an anthropology of manly strength and nations at war” T, Th 8-10am and “Squat more, fleshy thing, I am disgusted by your weakness” M, W, F at the same time. Or of course you can check Wikipedia for the ultra abbreviated version or The Art of Manliness for a sweeping gloss of the issue.
Because it’s Manly Mondays, we’re mostly here for the skin and so we turn to the case of Bob Mizer. Mizer was a Los Angeles based photographer with ready access to the burgeoning muscle culture of Muscle Beach in Santa Monica in the mid-1940s. He founded the Athletic Model Guild, which published Physique Pictorial one of the earliest beefcake magazines of the post-war period. By the mid-1950s the implication of nudity under the posing pouches he was using on his models had drawn the ire of the USPS and he was charged with obscenity and did a 9 months stint in a work camp. The obscenity charge only served to make him more well known and he became a primary source for photographic records of muscle culture in Santa Monica/Venice Beach through the ’60s and ’70s. You’ve potentially seen some of his art with old photos of the Governator showing off.
Unforutantely for you all, copyright is a strange beast and I’d prefer not to get trampled under foot, so I’m just going to send you looking elsewhere including a fairly Safe For Work Bob Mizer Foundation Kickstarter campaign from 2012 to help raise money for properly archiving some of Mizer’s work. The less safe for work, but safer-than-a-Mapplethorpe-exhibition, galleries hosted by the Bob Mizer Foundation, and of course potentially NSFW depending on your Safe Search settings: GIS or Bing Images.
Also bonus footage from Muscle Beach back in the 1950s heyday that has nothing to do with Mizer, but is part of his milieu.