Get To Know Bob Mizer, The Physique Photog Behind America’s First Gay Mag
The name Bob Mizer may not mean anything to you, but his story is the stuff of legend. In 1945, the 24-year-old spent his time lurking around California’s Muscle Beach, convincing its bulky, bikini-clad denizens to participate in provocative photoshoots and short films, wearing tiny posing straps (an early ancestor of the g-string, each sewn by Mizer’s surprisingly supportive mother out of tube socks and thin strips of elastic.)
That same year, Mizer opened the Athletic Model Guild as a means to market his photography, inadvertently inventing “physique photography” as we now know it. Although bodybuilders had certainly been photographed before, it had never been with such a slyly seductive lens aimed at a gay audience. In 1951, he launched Physique Pictorial, which was the very first gay magazine to ever be released to the public worldwide.
As The New Yorker reports in its excellent piece on the late Mizer, he’d “produced more than a million negatives and some three thousand hours of film and video” by the time of his death in 1993. He previously highlighted some of his strongest work 1968’s “Thousand Model Directory,” which Taschen Books is now re-releasing in two volumes that will instantaneously transform any coffee-table into a beefcake table.
The original copies were little 98-page books and the images were so tiny — 12 to a page — that they were as infuriating as they were seductive. Fortunately, Taschen used the original 4 x 5 negatives to present these male specimen in all their glory — or at least as much glory as was legal in 1968.
You can get order both volumes for $99, and the collection includes an hour-long DVD featuring 18 of his erotic black-and-white films, which range from simple posedowns to campy “sword and sandal” male burlesque.
Here are some highlights from the collection: