We go through life wearing an invisible suit of armor. The exterior of our bodies reflect societal norms as we refract criticism, judgment and negativity.
Meanwhile on the inside, our souls boil with insecurities. We will do anything to hide our doubts, to cover our inadequacies, and to flex our brute resilience in the face of uncertainty.
It is this complex dichotomy between the external and internal that fascinated Bob Mizer. He built a legacy on photographing muscular models who perfected the art of showing off.
But was it all just an effort to avoid the more revealing truths within?
Mizer’s lens peered through the aforementioned suit of armor and saw the godly glow beneath the façade. His subjects were a celestial mix of warrior and whimsy, cavorting in a playground of bravado that celebrated their sexuality and camaraderie.
No chain mail could break their bonds.
But the photographer’s own defenses were shattered when he was wrongly arrested and imprisoned for exploring queer taboos in the depths of the 1950s. Mizer gained infamy in incarceration, becoming a household name that influenced generations who followed in his bootprints.
Bob Mizer died in 1992, but his artistry is being resurrected through the publication synonymous with his name. Physique Pictorial just released their Autumn 2021 edition and it is a bulging mix of past, present and posture.
The hallmarks of homoeroticism still pulse through Mizer’s restored images. Garments known as “posing straps” struggle to contain his models’ nether girth as their toned frames strut through a vintage landscape of latent passions unleashed.
Modern photographers also contribute to the re-launch of Physique Pictorial, drawing inspiration from Mizer’s unique blend of vulnerability and bracing masculinity.
Though a picture is worth a thousand words, Mizer himself spoke eloquently via brevity. He was able to succinctly define the prototypical beefcake aesthetic he created in a letter to his mother, sent from Saugus prison.
“I feel more strength now than ever before,” he writes, “but this strength, this driving energy, shall be carefully bridled and directed with wisdom… My ambition is everything: pleasure, physical sensations mean nothing compared to great accomplishments.”
Perhaps the ultimate armor is achievement. Bob Mizer eternally disarms us with his vision while his enduring portfolio only grows stronger in time.
Photo: Instagram @bobmizer
Last modified: October 19, 2021