Late in 1975, I sent Bob Kennedy, unsolicited, a few photos of Arnold that I had shot just before he went to South Africa for the ’75 Mr. Olympia. I had never met Bob in person, but of course I knew of him through his magazine, the Canadian-based MuscleMag International, which he’d launched in 1974.
As a freelance photographer I mostly submitted photos to Iron Man; however, Bob not only bought the photos but also called me to ask about the details of the shoot. He was very interested in how I’d taken the pictures, as he had never seen 35-millimeter film create prints like the one I’d sent him. I had been experimenting with special black-and-white film that created the texture of medium-format photography. Bob was intrigued, and that is how our friendship started.
Bob’s enthusiasm for the photos and my technique was unusual, and we instantly bonded over our mutual interests in photography and bodybuilding. I finally met him at the ’76 IFBB Mr. Universe in Montreal. I was there on assignment for Muscle Power, the magazine that eventually became Muscle & Fitness. It was cold and snowy, but Bob’s clothes reflected what I later learned was his personal style—and it was not wintery! To say that Bob loved color would be like suggesting that Arnold had built a little muscle; Bob brought the sun and warmth with him. He greeted me like an old friend, and over time I got to see him as the multidimensional guy he was. We shared not only a lifelong connection to bodybuilding but also the experience of creating art. While my art manifested itself as self-taught photography, he was a trained artist and had the paintings to prove it.
Bob’s passion and sensibilities drove the content and look of his magazines. In bodybuilding he was a great fan of proportion (as I am)—the physique of Steve Reeves was as near perfect as his artistic sensibilities could imagine. He always championed that ideal even after the judging moved proportion from first to third in importance, after size and muscularity. The styles may have changed, but his ideal did not.
Bob’s smile was as special as his British wit. He saw the irony in our world, and he expressed it as only he could. Whenever we met, he would call me Johnny; he was that kind of guy, always open, always ready with a quip and a wink. I will miss him. He was a one of a kind—in our industry and the world. IM