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Western Photography Guild
June 14 - July 28, 2006

Wessel + O'Connor is very pleased to announce the first ever solo gallery exhibit of the renowned 1950's era Physique photo studio Western Photography Guild. Founded by Don Whitman (1917-1998) in Denver, Colorado during the post WWII physical fitness boom, it thrived for over 40 years.

As one of the top proponents of the golden age of Physique photography, he captured in his work the All-American macho virility that represented every mans fantasy of the Wild West. Even during an atmosphere of extreme sexual repression in 1950's America, his studio flourished, due in large part due to the unique skill and taste he employed in creating his work's "look".

At the time, many of the other top Physique studios were either based in sun-drenched, hedonistic Southern California or clandestinely dark New York interiors. Whitman placed his ruggedly handsome models outdoors, high up on the Rocky Mountains, utilizing only Mother Nature as a backdrop. Set in classic, mannerist poses learned from his studies of art history, he photographed his subjects against the craggy mountaintops, starkly beautiful trees and wide open skies surrounding them. Marketed in the burgeoning bodybuilding magazines of the era, they were an instant hit.

In 1950 he co-founded the Mr. Colorado Contest to create a showcase for physical culture in the Rocky Mountain Region and served as it's director for the next 22 years. Many of his models would be discovered here, others came from the University of Colorado, based in Denver. Contrary to what might have seemed like an exploitative role, he remained lifelong friends with many of his subjects, who flocked to his funeral with their families, forever grateful for having been captured at the perfect moment of youth when they were at the height of their physical beauty.

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"Wrestling Series # 4" circa 1950s
8 x 10" toned vintage gelatin silver print

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