Everything was bigger in the 80s: hair, muscles, shoulder pads. Arnold’s Bodybuilding for Men is one of those relics so completely of its time, even a quick glance places it in those more-is-more days of velour and four-finger rings and relentless exercise regimens. But for all its musclebound excess, there is something strikingly minimal about Arnold’s guide to weight training and aerobics, and the objective, almost dry way in which the book is shot caught artist and art director Ben Branagan’s eye whilst browsing in a junk shop.
Ben has since turned the fitness book into an ongoing series of collages which take manuals, guides and instructional imagery as their starting point. Using the simplest of means, in Bodies Ben makes matter of fact exercise shots ever so slightly abstract by layering circular cut-outs that obscure faces and transform bodies. The personal project goes to show even the slightest of alterations can give found imagery a second life.
“I was really interested in the forms and shapes, and the subject matter seemed to lend itself to the idea of collage and manipulation,” he explains. “I liked the idea of this circle that starts to creep in to the page, intersecting the image and interacting with the models. Originally I was cutting circles out of a different book and adding them to the images, but I started to enjoy the economy of using just one set of images to build up the sequence, cutting into the pages with this simple geometric shape and watching it move through the pages.”