Irene Anderson, 2007
"A friend of mine showed me pictures of a bodybuilding competition that left me shocked and mesmerized at the same time," Schoeller said. "From the first Polaroid, I was struck by the multi-dimensional complexity of the portrait. I felt compelled to build a catalog outside the range of judgment; not to celebrate, condemn or expose, but merely to show."
Mercedes Yvonne-Bazemore, 2007
The first true female bodybuilding event was the U.S. Women's National Physique Championship. Today, the two largest female bodybuilding competitions are the Ms. International - founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger - and the Ms. Olympia.
Sarah Bridges, 2007
Schoeller said he learned a great deal about these women during the project. "Many of the subjects in this book raise children, maintain marriages and pursue full-time careers, just like other female athletes," Schoeller said.
Michelle Davis, 2004
While rules are different for each competition, the National Physique Committee's rules say that female competitors have to wear a two-piece costume when competing. Prints, fringes, lace and sparkle are allowed, but the women are not allowed to hike up their suits to better exhibit their physique.
Sarah Dunlap, 2007
Female bodybuilding comes with its fair share of controversy. While staying in shape is important to a person's health, sometimes it is taken too far.
"Bodybuilding is not healthy," Schoeller said. "Like many other professional athletes, some take illegal performance enhancing drugs and abuse their bodies beyond the natural boundaries."
Kim Harris, 2003
A typical female bodybuilding routine is usually set to music. The women strike various poses for the judges to best show off their muscles.
Some major poses include Front Lat Spread, Front Double Bicep, Side Chest, Side Tricep, and more.
Lenda Murray, 2003
Female bodybuilding judges pick winners based on symmetry, shape, proportion, muscle tone, poise, balance, and beauty flow.
Nadia Nardi, 2007
"We all operate within narrowly constructed ideals of the good, the right, and the beautiful - all subject to the countless influences that swirl around us," Schoeller said. "The athletes presented here are no different in this regard, they are as vulnerable as any other person standing in front of a camera."
Bonny Priest, 2004
Female bodybuilding winners receive cash prizes, sponsorships, and photospreads. The winner of the Ms. International receives $55,500.
Christine Roth, 2004
Schoeller ultimately issued a challenge to the viewers of his photographs:
"What is it that provokes our admiring, conforming, outraged, or confused response?" Schoeller said. "If a subject is proud of the way she looks, whose discomfort are you feeling?"
Critically acclaimed photographer Martin Schoeller recently released his second monograph, Female Bodybuilders - a book showcasing portraits he took of numerous female weightlifters. Visit www.pondpress.com to learn more about Schoeller's project.