This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.
Professional bodybuilding can be a thankless task. The effort to recognition ratio is all skewed: the endless hours spent in the gym sculpting yourself to competition standards are rarely matched by the financial rewards. Unless you’re Mr Olympia, you’re likely going home a few grand and a chintzy little trophy you could pick up off the shelf in your local sports shop.
But amid the hubbub of the International German Championships, a competition hosted annually by the German Bodybuilding and Fitness Association, Berlin-based photographer Nikolas-Petros Androbik found bodybuilders smiling and looking positively beatific.
Androbik wasn’t in attendance as a photojournalist per se, but as a person fascinated by the physiques on display and the dedication needed to attain them. “It’s amazing what these people achieve,” he tells VICE, adding that he couldn’t help being impressed by their “discipline, stamina, and focus”, even if he finds the amount of meat the average bodybuilder consumes on a daily basis somewhat questionable.
Androbik was also there to cheer on his friend Sven Georgewitsch, who regularly participates in bodybuilding competitions. It was a good day for Georgewitsch, who walked away with the top prize in the classic physique category. “That made me very happy,” said his photographer pal.
Androbik says that he got pretty bored pretty quickly with what was going on at the front of the stage, so he made his way to the back entrance, peering behind the scenes until he was eventually ushered in. “They were all super nice,” he said.
From a distance, he admits that he was intimidated by the huge, and hugely serious-looking, mountains of muscle. Up close, everyone he encountered was open and friendly. “They were happy that someone was taking photos that were a bit different.”
Androbik’s use of flash illuminates the bodies with merciless, ultra-HD detail. This, along with the bronze body paint the competitors slather themselves in before taking to the stage, gives them the look of ancient Greek deities.
He says that photographing the subjects was easy backstage because the hard work happens on stage. They’ve been restricting their diet and training for hours, days, sometimes even weeks. Everything rides on those few moments under the spotlights. You pose and strain and then you’re backstage and it’s done. It’s why everyone Androbik pointed his camera at flashed him a smile, he thinks – their work was over.