An icon of gay art and one of the most famous names in physique photography, Bruce Bellas is remembered today as a pioneer of beefcake. Beginning in the 1940s and continuing until his death in 1974, Bellas photographed some of the most important figures in the world of physical culture; bodybuilders Steve Reeves, Bob McCune, and George Eiferman, and models Joe Dallesandro, Mark Nixon, and Brian Idol are just a few of the countless strapping males captured by Bellas’ lens. The man who came to be known as Bruce of Los Angeles crafted a refined, masterful aesthetic of erotica, whose influence would later surface in the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, and many others.
Collected in Bruce of Los Angeles are Bellas’ rare photographs and films, as they have never been seen before. Inside/Outside comprise over 100 full-color images, all masterfully restored from the original color negatives. This limited-edition set is contained in a unique slipcase, and includes a DVD of 12 digitally remastered films.
Bruce Bellas (1909-1974) was born in Alliance, Nebraska and was a chemistry teacher before taking up photography. He set out on road trips through America’s heartland, photographing farmhands, athletes, soldiers, and sailors along the way, and eventually made his way to California, where he began shooting bodybuilding contests all along the coast. As his career blossomed, he branched out into color work, 8mm films, and 3-D slides, and by the 1960s had succeeded in publishing his own magazine, The Male Figure. He died in 1974, leaving behind one of the most comprehensive photo archives of the time.
Vince Aletti reviews photography exhibitions for The New Yorker’s “Goings On About Town” section and writes a regular column about photo books for Photograph, as well as occasional features for publications including Aperture, Art + Auction, and others. He was the art editor of the Village Voice from 1994 to 2005, and the paper’s photo critic for 20 years. He is the winner of the International Center of Photography’s 2005 Infinity Award in writing. He has written essays for a number of art books, and has curated and co-curated shows at major galleries in New York and abroad. Aletti is currently at work on Male, a book of photographs from his collection.