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Bill Dobbins Interview

Article care of www.star-interviews.com

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: 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 a living.

DON: 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 things?
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.

DON: 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 physique.

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: 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!

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: Wow. besides all that, what supplements do you take?
BILL: I take some general products, nothing much.

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: Even so, now that the IFBB has come down and told the fitness competitors to soften up, where is the future in that?
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.

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: If you could achieve one huge thing in your field, what would it be?
BILL: I thing I have achieved it.

DON: 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 pictures.

DON: 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 difficult.

DON: What would you have them do different in this industry? The women.
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.

DON: 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.

DON: What would be the ideal work environment?
BILL: The one I have the fullest control over..

DON: 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.

DON: 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.

DON: 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 female bodybuilders.

DON: 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.

See Bill's website at www.billdobbins.com

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