Photographers' Blog

Muscle men of China

Shaoxing, China

By Carlos Barria

Feng Qing Ji, 69, and his younger brother Yu, 61, look at themselves in a mirror. Li tries to help Yu with his pose. He tells him to straighten his back.

They are not in a park, hanging around with other Chinese seniors, who typically meet up to play Mahjong or dance. They are covered in oil and wearing tiny speedos as they prepare for an amateur bodybuilder competition in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province.

Bodybuilding is not a very popular sport in China, despite the efforts of sport supplement companies that have promoted bodybuilding here by touring stars like Ronnie Coleman, winner of eight Mr. Olimpia titles.

In a suburban area of Shaoxing, enthusiasts compete in categories that range from “Mr. Fitness Man” to “Grand Old Man” — the latter a category for male participants over 50. The Feng Quig brothers started training 10 years ago and now take their place among some 100 competitors from clubs around that city.

While competitors are stretching and perfecting their poses in front of a mirror, a young girl in her 20s approaches Li and asks him for some advice on her own postures. Silence falls over the room as other contestants turn around to listen. Mr. Li, the oldest competitor in the tournament, gently corrects the young lady before she hits the stage.

from Raw Japan:

Buff, bronze and beautiful


For the national holiday, Sports Day, I had a fitting assignment --  a women's bodybuilding competition in Tokyo.

It was my first time to cover bodybuilding, and as soon as I entered the venue I heard  cheers from the 1,500 spectators eyeing 68 athletes from across Japan.

I hurried backstage to catch the competitors’ last preparations before the judging, and followed a trail of plastic, blanketing the floor, walls and furniture to protect the surroundings from the oil and skin toner creams covering the contestants.

All in a day’s work down under


I saw the story of 80-year-old body builder Ray Moon on a tabloid type current affairs TV programme in August. The segment said he was in training for the Victorian Bodybuilding Championships in September, taking place in Melbourne. I thought to myself, what a crazy story!

I got hold of the manager of the gym where Ray trains and he put me in touch. I explained to Ray that I wanted to spend a few days with him and the kind of pictures I wanted to shoot – Ray at home, training, having the famous body builder’s spray-on tan and then competing.

Ray was not having any of it. He said ‘No’ to all of my ideas, except the competition shots, saying my presence would spoil his concentration in the lead-up to the event. ‘No problem’ was my answer, as I felt the story would still be strong enough without the other pictures.

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