I followed a link to this page from Facebook today: http://ninamatsumoto.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/athletic-body-diversity-reference-for-artists/
Thanks to Nina Matsumoto for taking the time to put this together. Her points about the sequence are worth reading, but I was taken enough with the photos to want to add my own.
It’s an impressive array of body types, to begin with. The first point I take away from it is the enormous overlap between male and female body types. One can’t deny certain innate differences in the genders, but it becomes so slight as to be hardly worth talking about. Yes, men are shifted to the taller/broader end of the spectrum, and at the same height and weight tend to have broader shoulders and narrower hips, but it’s not universal and the differences are minor. People is people. Gender is a variation, not a sub-species.
Even given the marked variations of weightlifters and sumo wrestlers, it’s clear from this series that people in general (at least in the US and other developed countries) carry too much weight. Not all of these athletes have washboard abs, and some clearly have a layer of fat, but all of them (with some exceptions as noted) have a very low body mass index compared with most people you see. I still struggle to keep my weight around 200, and that’s 15 pounds over what I consider ideal (25 over what charts say, but I know my body better than the charts, and I need that extra ten pounds to be at my best). We need to eat less and exercise more, folks.
I thought it was cool to have so many folks proud enough of their bodies to be photographed in near nudity for a graphic artist. It’s kind of sad, though, that they couldn’t, or wouldn’t be photographed entirely nude, because there are body image issues that go beyond weight (or height), and it’s always nice to challenge the notion that the body has “naughty bits”. No part of the body is lewd, or even for that matter exclusively “sexual”.
What struck me as most significant was that none of these bodies are the way they are simply because of genetics. These bodies have been shaped by the individuals for a specific purpose, through intensive training and diet. This is the mind and will of humans at work, creating their own desires in the flesh. It’s amazing what we can do with a fairly straighforward and standardized body plan. I enjoy seeing what people can do who devote their lives to the physical just as much as I enjoy (and benefit from) what people can do who devote their lives to the arts and sciences. And not just athletes; male and female models, often derided, put as much work into their bodies as these athletes. I’m impressed by anyone who can concentrate on a specific thing for so long and at a price of so much effort, because it’s not a strong point with me; I’m always juggling several things at once, and have never been able to perfect any of the things that interest me because of this lack of dedication to a single purpose. I wouldn’t change, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate those who follow a different path in order to get as close to perfection as they can.