They say a photograph is a moment in time captured on film; one that can never be reproduced because such a moment will never happen exactly as it did ever again.
Well, today most photos are taken digitally from point-and-click cameras or cell phones. But the idea remains the same: The purpose of still images is to provide a snapshot of a particular moment in time and to allow the viewer – whether they see it a hundred days later or a hundred years later – to experience from a distance what the moment might have been like.
Maybe we’re talking about a photo from your kid’s 6th birthday party. Or your father’s grand retirement celebration. Or when your mom won a prestigious community service award. Or when you and your buddies experienced your team winning the World Series. Or when your lovely partner finally said “I do.” The possibilities are endless.
That’s the inherent advantage between a still photo and a video clip. A still photo captures a precise moment in time. A video captures a stretch of time, which could last seven seconds or seven hours. Technically speaking, a video clip is more accurate in documenting reality while a photograph can be deceptive. How many times have we seen a nice photograph of a couple enjoying a night out on the town only to learn this couple tragically died in a fatal car accident only hours later? Or an image of a star high school athlete relishing in triumphant victory…but later his or her life is unexpectedly cut short after he or she is victim to a heartless shooting?
Thus, the beauty of photographs is that they encapsulate a specific moment without delving too deep into the context of said moment. Even if the subjects of the picture are moving around (as opposed to posing for the photographer), moments very rarely happen in stillness. Yet, a photograph is still. They don’t move or communicate motion. Think about those creepy turn-of-the-century black and white family photos where one of the “posing” members is a dead body. Don’t believe me? Look it up.
The subjects of photos appear to be not just still, but frozen in time. We see who they are instead of what they’re doing. It illustrates the poetic truth that time is not a continuous arc of events, but rather a series of individually poignant moments.
Except when it comes to female bodybuilders.
You knew I’d eventually get around to this subject, right?
For us fans of female bodybuilders, muscular women, athletes, fitness models, and amateur gym rats, the most prominent way we’re able to “experience” these women is through still images. Thanks to YouTube, social media, Vimeo, and other video sharing platforms we’re also able to watch them in action. But the most significant avenue through which we satisfy our female muscle fix is through good old fashioned still photos that we can view on our computer, phone, or tablet device.
Back in the day all we had were fitness/bodybuilding magazines that we tried to purchase inconspicuously at the grocery store and hide under the bed away from prying eyes. Thank God for the Internet.
Recently, I had a bit of an epiphany while scrolling through a Tumblr blog dedicated to muscular and fit women. This blogger also posts photos of “normal” women – meaning they’re gorgeous but gorgeous within mainstream parameters. I began to notice something strange when seeing images of muscular women juxtaposed with images of non-muscular women.
The muscular women seemed to be more alive.
That’s an odd observation considering all the women featured on this blog are, uh living and breathing. No dead bodies posed to look like they’re still alive. But when you take the time and actually look at images of female bodybuilders next to images of non-muscular women, the contrast is both jarring and difficult to explain.
Their body language is nearly identical. Most modeling shots consist of the subjects (or “talent,” using industry parlance) sitting on couches, standing around, laying down provocatively, leaning against a wall or large object, engaging in a suggestive activity, or contorting their bodies in weird ways. Sometimes the subject looks directly at the camera, other times they pretend like there’s nobody in the environment with them. While FBBs will frequently pose for photos of them at the gym doing what they do best, for the most part what their non-muscular counterparts do they will do also.
So, what exactly do I mean when I say that female bodybuilders seem to exist in “still motion” when photographed?
In short, there’s something inherently and inexplicably “active” about a muscular woman. Her muscles give her a sense of liveliness that isn’t present in women who aren’t muscular. A photograph of an FBB conveys energy, vivacity, and dynamism like nothing else. This isn’t true of all photos of female bodybuilders, of course. Ones taken in poor light, terrible conditions, or on a grainy cell phone camera obviously aren’t nearly as good as ones taken by a professional photographer (which goes to show you that the world still needs professional photographers, online photo “filters” be damned). I’m only referring to images that are produced with a certain degree of artistic integrity.
A lot of this has to do with how a woman earns her muscles to begin with. She didn’t get big and buff sitting on her couch eating potato chips and watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory. She earned her impressive physique through sweat, labor, supplementation, dieting, and making wholesale lifestyle changes. So because of this, when we see a still photo of a female bodybuilder, even if she’s not doing anything explicitly active, we know she leads a highly active lifestyle when she’s away from shutterbugs.
She’s constantly lifting, running, stretching, eating, cooking, drinking protein shakes, working, lifting, jogging, eating, lifting some more, eating a bit more, cooking more food that she’ll eat later, and lifting.
Did I mention that female bodybuilders lift weights on occasion?
The point is that female bodybuilders seem to be more active because they are more physically active than the average adult. So it makes sense that their proactive and demanding lives would transfer over to photographs taken of them, even if they’re just sitting down on a chaise or lying down in a frilly white bed. When you see her posing for the camera, you know in the back of your mind that she wouldn’t be in that position in the first place if it weren’t for her impressive muscularity.
That is, you wouldn’t be completely enraptured by her beauty unless she were as muscular as she is. She could very well be quite beautiful even if she didn’t have muscles, but it’s not the same thing. Not even close. A female bodybuilder’s muscles is what takes center stage when we look at her.
Yes, we know that muscular women are active in their everyday lives. That’s obvious. But that still doesn’t fully explain why they look like they’re ready to jump off the celluloid and into your lap.
Another reason is how surreal it is to actually look at a woman with big muscles. For as many years as I’ve been appreciating female bodybuilders, I still sometimes do a “double take” when I see a picture of a muscular woman unexpectedly. For example, not too long ago a friend of mine shared on Facebook an article talking about HIIT – or high intensity interval training. I don’t know whether this method is best for burning fat and staying in shape, but that’s not the point. The point is that the article featured a picture of a beautiful young lady with gorgeous curvy muscles. I was taken aback. My heart fluttered a bit. I felt a surge of energy run through my core.
Why did I suddenly react this way? I’ve spent countless hours watching and looking at hundreds of muscular women. Why did this “out of the blue” experience cause me to react as if I had just seen my first ever female bodybuilder?
It’s because it was unexpected and out of context. When I’m searching my usual lineup of blogs for pictures of beautiful muscular women, I know what I’m going to get. But if I stumble upon an image of one accidentally, it’s as though someone just socked me in the face. I think this is because at the end of the day, no matter how many hours I spend looking at images of muscle-bound women, my brain is preconditioned to produce a strong reaction whenever I witness them. I’m socialized to think of muscular women as being “abnormal” no matter how normalized they seem to be to me.
This is why muscular women appear to be suspended in still motion when photographed. My brain subconsciously tells me that this is unusual and therefore I should react accordingly. No amount of zombie movies will actually prepare you for a real-life zombie invasion. You can read all the post-apocalyptic themed fiction you want; if World War III is ever right around the corner (don’t be too surprised!) you’ll have no idea what to do next.
Likewise, you can watch thousands of hours of female muscle videos and meet dozens of FBBs for muscle worship sessions. Still, your mind will intuitively tell you that the sight of a woman with muscles is strange. Strange, bizarre, peculiar, irregular, atypical, odd. That’s not a product of how you personally view muscular women; rather it’s a product of the lack of muscular women in our society.
Anything that’s rare will stand out when it happens. Throwing a perfect game is so unusual that many baseball aficionados could probably name at least a dozen pitchers who’ve done it throughout the game’s history. And when it happens, it’s huge news. The same goes for muscular women. No matter how familiar you are with seeing FBBs, it’s still a memorable experience when it happens outside of normal parameters.
Unlike most amateur photographs, modeling shots are intended to capture the essence of the subject, not the moment. What a model is actually doing is not nearly as important as what they look like doing it. The same goes for FBBs who pose for model shots, but our reactions to seeing them are remarkably different. We don’t just see who they are. We also see their accomplishments, hopes, dreams, successes, aspirations, and passions. A muscular woman doesn’t just stand around and look pretty. She invades her space. She communicates a clear message to the viewer. She owns the frame. She doesn’t want you to just look at her, she wants you to react viscerally toward her.
See the difference?
Back in the glory days of the 90s, I’d surf the Internet and ogle photos of Pamela Anderson, Cindy Crawford, and Anna Nicole Smith. As an inexperienced teenager with raging hormones, I was introducing myself to a whole new world that I’d never known before: female beauty. It was an epic time of discovery. But even back then, I never experienced any sort of spiritual connection with the gorgeous ladies popping up on my computer screen. As odd as it sounds, I sort of feel that way with photos of muscular women. Sort of.
It’s as though photos of FBBs exist for purposes that go beyond that of normal photos of beautiful women. Cindy Crawford wants you to appreciate her natural beauty. Debi Laszewski wants to challenge your notions of femininity, gender roles, social stereotypes, and human biology. I don’t think these thoughts literally go through Debi’s mind as she’s posing for the camera, but that’s the sense I get when I look at her flawless visage. Pamela Anderson inspired hundreds of thousands of teenage boys – myself included – to masturbate in the privacy of their bedrooms. Cory Everson may have inspired similar reactions (though on a much smaller scale), but what she’s done that Pamela couldn’t is transform the way you view humanity: Women can be as buff as men – and look fabulous at the same time!
Muscular women can do that, even though many of them don’t intend to. They allude a degree of power and influence that most of them – including fans like us – don’t entirely comprehend. Hell, I’ve been writing about muscular women for nearly five years and even I continue to struggle to articulate this phenomena into words. Our love for female bodybuilders isn’t just rooted in good old fashioned lust. It’s also explained by our intrinsic desire to make sense out of a hectic and chaotic world. Muscular women, simply put, create chaos. How we adjust to that chaos is up to us on an individual level.
So that must be it. There’s the kicker. Muscular women create chaos in our brains. They cause our imaginations to spin out of control. They challenge our beliefs. They unleash our hidden impulses. They awaken our basest desires. They grapple our minds and refuse to let go, even for a moment. And this is something we don’t try to stop because we love every single minute of it. Isn’t that something?
Female bodybuilders appear to be in still motion because they’re perpetually active, even when they’re captured in a lifeless photograph. They activate our hearts, minds, and souls like nothing else can. In this respect, a photograph doesn’t just capture a single moment in time. It captures many moments, both those that have come and those that are yet to be.
As the old cliché goes, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. But not just words that immediately come to mind, but also words that are yet to be written or conceived. When we stare at a still image of a beautiful muscular woman, we’re not just staring at her. We’re staring at ourselves. And others. And everything around us. All at the same time.