I first met Joe Weider in 1968 through my dear friend Art Zeller, the master of the “decisive photographic moment.” Joe collected the best photographers because he had an artist’s eye and he appreciated photography. Joe understood the power of the photograph to inspire, and Joe was all about inspiration.
The other bodybuilding magazines of the time saw photography merely as illustration, to fill pages; Joe saw it as an inspirational art form that was essential to his vision. He knew that wonderful photography would create the reader’s “want”—which was the first step toward transformation. The photo held out the possibility that you, too, could change.
So the pictures created a hunger. Joe used photography to capture not only the beauty and power of a physique but also the sense that having that physique would open a door to a special place. Along with the images of magnificent athletes, Joe created a world that was glamorous and fun. You wanted to be a part of it.
One of the great “want”-creating photos for me was of a group of well-built young men on a float in a lake, surrounded by beautiful young women. The caption: “The guy on the float who gets my vote is the Weider-trained man.” Joe understood sexy. He understood young men. They were all a part of his vision—the sun, sand and women of Muscle Beach. Joe was a merchant of dreams.
At Joe’s 90th birthday party a few years ago almost all of the Mr. Olympias were present. Each spoke of the moment that he knew he wanted to be a part of this club, and in every case it was driven by a photograph, which he remembered in detail. No one spoke of an article that had brought him an “ah-ha” moment. It was always an image that had created the resolve to transform.
It was exciting to witness those great champions recalling their moments and the stories that went with them. They validated Joe’s vision and his dedication to using photography to convey it. The images that launched millions of transformations were the work of the most gifted photographers: Lon, Warner, Mozée, Caruso, Zeller, Neveux and Lund, to name a few. As I said, Joe always attracted the best.
He was a perfectionist, calling the shots (so to speak) at so many shoots over the years—director, cheerleader and, ultimately, chief visionary. He is gone, but the millions who were transformed by his vision are a testament to his lifetime of dedication to it. IM