Bill Dobbins Interview
Article care of www.star-interviews.com
Hi Bill. I see your work absolutely everywhere. You
have photographed every woman in the industry including
the girls in my videos at one time or another. I got
into this industry through JM Manion. How and when did
you get into it?
BILL: When I was a kid, I read Pumping Iron and not
long afterward moved into a house just down the street
from the original Gold's Gym and saw bodybuilders like
Arnold walking to the gym in the alley behind it. I
joined the gym as a way of getting in shape (start at
the top, I believe). I later began helping the gym with
promotion, produced the 1977 Mr. America for Gold's,
wrote and photographed a tabloid type program which
brought me to the attention of Joe Weider, for whom
I started working.
What about the women's side of bodybuilding?
BILL: I saw my first female bodybuilding contest in
1979, the one that Lisa Lyon won. From the beginning,
Bill Reynolds, Steve Wennerstrom and I took bodybuilding
for women at face value. Men and women play tennis,
golf, basketball and other sports, now men and women
were doing bodybuilding. Simple. Of course, others didn't
see it that way and we have all had to struggle against
the powers-that-be to be sure women got a fair shake.
For example, not being judged as "too muscular" simply
because they were better than everyone else in the sport
at the time.
So was your famous photography work with the fabulous
ladies of bodybuilding stemming from your determination
to gain them some respect?
BILL: I have focused on photographing the women simply
because it was a brand new subject, and new subjects
for art/photography are very rare indeed. The aesthetically
muscular female physique had never existed before. Muscular
males have been the subject of art for thousands of
years. So I decided to get in at the beginning and try
to do as much now on the subject as I could before others
got there first.
What was the most savoring and successful moment you've
had to date and what is the next big project? Loved
your coffee table picture book "The Women" by the way.
BILL: My book "The Women" came out in 1995 and is now
in its third printing. I began doing erotic centerfolds
for FLEX (with Michelle Ralabate) and that significantly
changed the portrayal of female physique with all the
magazines. Unfortunately, they couldn't tell the difference
between naked and nude and eventually settled on a pictorial
style featuring mostly T&A shots of fitness girls.
As a result, my best work hasn't been seen, and for
a while there, I was beginning to have trouble making
That's obviously where your site comes in. Your site
is apparently exclusive with women pictorials. But do
you still photograph men too? How did you get into photography
anyhow and more curiously, the adult industry of all
BILL: After working for two years with Arnold on his
NEW Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, I decided in January
to create my own female physique magazine on the web.
I got it up and running right after the annual Arnold
Classic bodybuilding show and immediately started getting
more than 1000 hits a day... Even before I was listed
on the search engines. The site includes everything
from the most extreme female bodybuilders to the most
beautiful fitness competitors, features, articles, interviews,
editorials and super feature pictorials. I also have
some areas involved with other aspects of my artistic
interest, such as glamour photos of adult oriented actresses
and erotic photo experiments. The nice thing about a
web site is I don't have to be concerned with any kind
of censorship. The only limitation on what I show is
my own taste and judgment.
It certainly is interesting how the magazines view,
portray, promote the female athlete and physique star
as opposed to say, oh, ten years ago.
BILL: The physique magazines have been adamant that
there is no audience for a more serious look at female
physique these days. I am hoping my Webzine/Gallery
will disprove this. In fact, the Web is the ideal place
to try this. I also feel print publications are going
to either have to radically change or go out of business
in the age of the Internet. I hope my Webzine/Gallery
becomes an instrument of this change in the world of
What is next on the horizon?
BILL: These days creating and maintaining a Webzine/Gallery
of this size is a full time job. I want to bypass the
print magazines and feature the female physique the
way it ought to be seen. So I am taking a hiatus from
the mainstream at the moment.
What are your training schedules like and what were
your own personal bests?
BILL: At one point I trained up to a modest 300 lb bench
and a 435 pound dead lift, but regularly putting that
kind of strain on the body isn't worth it unless you
are some kind of physique/strength competitor. I workout
for health and I'm not a bodybuilder.
What was the last book you read? The last CD you bought
and the last movie you saw?
BILL: The last CD I bought was the "Son's Of The Pioneers,"
whose rendition of "Cool Water" is a classic. I listen
to a lot of classical and blues. As a former musician,
I've heard more "pop" music than I needed to. I read
a lot of science books, mostly about quantum mechanics
and cosmology. I used to like science fiction but real
science is even more fascinating. As to movies, I like
Quentin Tarentino, I've seen about everything. I can
see 10 seconds of almost any movie back to the silent
days and tell you what it is and when it was made 90%
of the time.
Who have you photographed the most? Who would you like
to photograph and do you have any funny stories about
anyone you photographed?
BILL: I've probably shot Lenda Murray the most. I'm
always up for shooting a female with an interesting
physique, doesn't matter if she has a big name or not.
Funny stories? Not really are any. Unless you're amused
by the idea of driving out into the desert with three
models and when you get there you realize that you don't
have the box of costumes and that the models KNEW the
box was left behind but never said anything about it.
How do you work out photo shoots with these models?
Do they fly to you or do you fly to them?
BILL: When I'm doing personal shoots (not mag assignments)
I don't fly the models here, but often take care of
their expenses while they're in town. The deal is simple:
I can publish their photos editorially or in collections
of my work and as art prints. They can use them for
their own purposes - on the web, duplicate and sell,
for publicity. I get to work with most of the top women
but I'm always looking for physique models who have
the time go out on location and work on projects that
the "stars" are too busy for.
Is there anything else you'd like to add Bill?
BILL: I have added a message board for comments and
discussions to my web site.
The Webzine/Gallery is going great too.... I just exceeded
100,000 hits in 3 months and 3 days!
Bill, what was the first of the FLEX erotic style pics
you did? I think it was a catalyst.
BILL: Don, you're right. The first "erotic" photo I
published in FLEX was the nude photo of Lenda Murray
on the green couch. That opened the flood gates. Then
all the magazines started running more nudes, and then
just a lot of pictures of naked women (again, they couldn't
tell the difference between nudes and just nakedness).
By the way, the green couch photo is still the favorite
of many... including both Lenda and her husband, Urel.
Now that female bodybuilding is all but dead, what does
the future hold?
BILL: I want you to know I REALLY OBJECT to a question
that ASSUMES women's bodybuilding is in trouble: "Now
that female bodybuilding is all but dead..." The NPC
shows are doing great, Arnold and Jan Tana are having
no trouble and Steve Wennerstrom says the World Amateur
Championships in Australia was a great success, with
terrific female bodybuilders from all over the world.
But it is suffering from obvious problems isn't it?
BILL: The "problems" are really simple. Ben Weider is
trying to distance the IFBB from the female pros because
that appeals to the International Olympic Committee
(details on Bill's web site). And the mags have backed
off the women for different reasons. Kennedy because
he wants to be King of the Strippers, Balik because
of his moral crusade about steroids and Flex because
they work for Ben Weider.
That's not entirely true though, is it?
BILL: Yes and IN SPITE OF ALL THIS CRAP the women are
still doing fine, which shows the grassroots strength
of the sport. Imagine what they could do if they got
the support they deserve.
Wow. besides all that, what supplements do you take?
BILL: I take some general products, nothing much.
Ok. What is it you are trying to do different from everyone
else in your field?
BILL: I have never been the kind of photographer who
just likes to "shoot pictures" all the time, no matter
what. Nor do I enjoy getting up every day with the expectation
of shooting pictures. Photography for me is a way of
creating images of subjects I am really interested in.
The problem with photography nowadays is that there
are so many photographers shooting so many pictures
and there have been for a long time - particularly since
the 1960s. Most of what can be done using traditional
photographic means has already been done.
Hasn't anyone found a way to overcome the obstacle of
complete photographic boredom?
BILL: One way to overcome this obstacle is to find a
subject that has NOT been photographed before. I realized
quite a while ago that the aesthetically-deveveloped
muscular female body was such a subject. These bodies
have never existed before in history and photographs
taken with the purpose of showing exactly what they
look like, what this new form is all about, are not
only aesthetically exciting but document a whole new
perception of what the female body is capable of becoming.
Not what women SHOULD look like, but what they CAN look
like if they choose. That is what I have in mind when
I am doing any kind of serious figure study of females
with muscle. I look at it as a kind of landscape photography.
I am Ansel Adams and they are Yosemite.
Even so, now that the IFBB has come down and told the
fitness competitors to soften up, where is the future
BILL: Women's bodybuilding is not dying. Ben Weider
is just withdrawing IFBB support for the Ms. Olympia
and the pro women because he feels this will help bodybuilding
become accepted as an Olympic sport.
Fitness women are just plain more appealing no matter
how you slice it. They are buff yet remain feminine
in most regards. Silicon helps. But steroids really
do turn women into men.
BILL: Sure, for business reasons you would assume, but
since featuring T&A photos, the magazines have NOT
increased their sales, and in fact decreased them (since
physique fans aren't going to spend $5 for pictures
of bikini babes). Robert Kennedy literally fills Muscle
Mag with pictures of strippers, John Balik at Iron Man
is somewhat fanatic on the subject of anti-steroids
(and co-owner Mike Neveaux simply doesn't like muscular
women), and Flex is controlled by Ben Weider, whose
political agenda they are obligated to support.
I agree, but softening up the competitors to look more
like athletic women may change things.
BILL: The "soften up" policies of IFBB fitness come
from the same source, but if you go to an NPC national
fitness event you will see the women are continuing
to get more muscular - BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN
YOU TRAIN WITH WEIGHTS! So women's bodybuilding is not
"dying." In fact, it is running into difficulties primarily
because it is so successful - that is, the women have
gotten so visually stunning in such a short time (not
necessarily "big" - Vickie Gates is only 145 lbs in
contest shape) that it is going to take some time for
the culture to catch up with it.
I know but the average American man is only 150 pounds.
So it's intimidating. Have you heard of any new trends
that are on the horizon many of us aren't aware of yet?
BILL: The really new development is the Internet, which
is allowing female bodybuilders to bypass the federations
and the magazines and go straight to their fans all
around the world. My advice to all women physique competitors
- Get a web site. Do it now. Link up with each other.
Form a cyber community.
If you could achieve one huge thing in your field, what
would it be?
BILL: I thing I have achieved it.
If success is measured in means of money earned, what
truly is success and why do you feel those with more
than that want more and more and more?
BILL: In what I do, success equal access and opportunity.
The more successful you are, the more subjects want
to work with you, the more you are able to publish,
the larger the budget for travel, props, and so forth,
so the more interesting and varied you can make the
What fitness star, bodybuilder, male and female do you
admire and want to work with?
BILL: Women are all pretty good to work with. I've had
an excellent relationship with most of the women I have
photographed. I always appreciated that Lenda Murray
"caught on" really fast to the benefits of good pictures.
Many women have thankfully avoided the trap of becoming
too busy, too important, too careful, too surrounded
by "management," and therefore too difficult to work
with. There are a few exceptions, and the result is
few or no photos of these people on my Web site or in
my book "The Women." If you want maximum publicity,
you need people to feel you are easy to work with, not
What would you have them do different in this industry?
BILL: Stop worrying about what the judges, magazines
or federations say they "ought" to be doing and just
train to become the best bodybuilders they can. Those
who don't are almost always disappointed down the line.
History is on the side of always trying to get better.
In the real world, we have what you do. Some go freelance
because the clients demand it. Others do this because
the powers that be are a pain in the ass. Why is that?
BILL: Freelance allows for the most freedom of expression.
What would be the ideal work environment?
BILL: The one I have the fullest control over..
What are your latest and most immediate plans?
BILL: Right now I am concentrating on developing my
Webzine/Gallery. I am amazed how quickly it has taken
off and the amount of response I'm getting - 50,000
hits a month and climbing. But it's a lot of work -
350 megs and 4000 pics so far - and I am constantly
thinking about how to improve it.
What are your fees for seminars?
BILL: Negotiable, I guess. I have just started to receive
offers of seminars so I'm playing it by ear.
One hard selling point so my readers will say "WOW"
and head to your site for more info.
BILL: The subscription area of the site is full of nude
In closing, how did you get involved on Arnold's encyclopedia?
BILL: Joe Weider recommended me to Arnold almost 20
years ago to co-write "Bodybuilding for Men." We went
on to do the first version of the Encyclopedia, and
then Arnold asked me to help him with the new edition.
Bill's website at www.billdobbins.com
Don Lemmon's Nutritional and Exercise Know How
Neither trulyhuge.com nor the authors of this publication
assume any liability for the information contained herein.
The Information contained herein reflects only the opinion
of the author and is in no way to be considered medical advice.
Specific medical advice should be obtained from a licensed
health care practitioner. Consult your physician before you
begin any nutrition, exercise, or dietary supplement program.