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