Move over, Ah-nold: Bodybuilders in rural Africa (and other, vintage photos of buff men)

Photographer Pej Behdarvand
Photographer Pej Behdarvand

Two new shows at the drkrm Gallery in Chinatown show buff men from different times and places. First to Africa, with Los Angeles-based photographer Pej Behdarvand, who went in search of bodybuilders in the villages of Kenya and Uganda.

Behdarvand, a commercial photographer was doing research for a client when he stumbled upon a website all about bodybuilding. At first, he was uneasy about bringing his camera to a faraway land. But once he arrived and trekked about with a guide in search of make-shift gyms and muscle-men, he felt a sense of awe–that he could transport himself to another place, and that men on the other side of the planet would become so immersed in the work of working out.

Photographer John Palatinus with some of his images
Photographer John Palatinus with some of his images

The show also includes photographs of other scantily clad, buff men–from 60 years ago. Back in the 50s, John Palatinus got busted and put out of business for selling these photos through the mail. The judge at the time reportedly told Palatinus, who is now 84-years-old and living in Palm Springs, “By today’s standards this work is considered pornography, but who knows? In 50 years’ time it may be considered art.” And now it is.

The most startling thing about these shots now is not the lack of clothing, but rather how there is nary a tattoo on the models.

You can see these photographs on display at drkrm through the end of the month.

One of the images that got Mr. Palatinus busted in the '50s, now on display downtown
One of the images that got Mr. Palatinus busted in the ’50s, now on display downtown

Some of Behdarvand’s photos are below:

PejBehdarvand_MG_1207 copy

PejBehdarvand_MG_0558_ copy

PejBehdarvand_MG_0580 copy

 PejBehdarvand_MG_0334 copy