Core is an empowering survey of female bodybuilders

Core is an empowering survey of female bodybuilders

This is where bodybuilding comes into play. Intrigued by the ways in which female athletes are striving to combat traditional gender norms “in the extreme”, she adds, Kate kickstarted the shoot and asked Celia to photograph it. “We needed to do a series to sufficiently capture the world.” As a result, the pair reached out to women on bodybuilding Facebook groups across the UK in order to locate their subjects – these groups allows women to source competitions, ask questions, advice and generally build a sense of community. “It’s quite a tight knit community and, most of the time, the women we were shooting all knew each other from competitions or online,” says Celia. One of the bodybuilders named Louise Plumb, for example, put the pair in touch with her friends who they continued to work with on the project.

The finished outcome is a wonderfully positive survey of muscle builders, documenting those who compete in various divisions for different body types in sepia tones and considered (almost theatrical) lighting. Vicci Lee, who features on the cover, competed in Bikini Girl divisions: “She’’s a dancer and is muscular, but has a slimmer physique than someone like Louise Plumb, a bodybuilder with a much heavier form,” says Celia. “I find it fascinating how much autonomy one can have over their physique.” Many of the women have children and jobs outside of bodybuilding, so the sport is a pure extension of their passion and interests. “It has to be a lifestyle,” continues Celia, “because it takes a lot of consistent work throughout the year to be ready for a competition season.”

Other women include Louise, “a highly successful body builder and mother”, says Kate; Jemma, a figure girl early in her career; Justine, also a figure girl and mother; and Andrea, a figure girl with a full-time job. All of them are close friends. The determination and power of these women is unmissable. Through the book’s exposing and caring imagery, the audience bear witness to the sense of achievement they feel through their sport – and, more specifically, what it feels like to thrash gender stereotypes. “Our main goal is to capture this still relatively unknown word and how these women are courageous athletes,” says Kate. “We also want to try and create a discussion about making space or creating a genre of gender fluid sports.”

“The women we worked with seemed really happy that female bodybuilding was getting more interest from outside their community,” Celia concludes. “I guess we just wanted to celebrate these women and their autonomy over their bodies.”

Core is published by Cherryboy and available here.

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