Chapman, Daniel L. (with Douglas Brown). “Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World, 1895-1975” Arsenal Pulp, 2013.
Muscles Around the World
I am sure that you have noticed the importance of muscles in the world today. Body building and gym activity seem to have become part of gay life today. In fact, for the last hundred years, we have seen the trend toward body sculpting and the body has become an object of envy, desire and admiration. The body has come to depict good health and fitness and it is used in advertising. It has also come to represent physical prowess and power as well as military might.
This is a follow up to David Chapman’s “American Hunks” but this is more universal. The photographs here begin in the 19th century and goes up until the 1970’s. The photos are from advertisements, magazines, book covers and other places. What they all share is the beautiful male body. There is almost no full frontal nudity and it is not necessary when we see the photos. We can break the men into three groups—the eroticized, the politicized and the commercialized. These three categories can take us through history. I understand that many of the photos come from Chapman’s private collection and some of these have never been published before.
The book has a forward by Douglas Brown in which we get an overview of what is in the volume and why. It is here that we learn that the men who appear in photograph here all wanted to be photographed. He covers topics such as “Where do these bodies belong in history?”, “Modern bodies: strong men and physical culturalists”, “Muscle and art” and “Postcolonial muscle” among others.
Then there are the following sections: Europe which contains Great Britain, France, Italy and Greece, Switzerland, Germany and Austria, Low Countries, Scandinavia, Russia and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia: The Far East, India and the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific and finally North and South America. The book is simply a pleasure to look at but it also teaches and that makes it doubly good.