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Bob Mizer: Private Works

08/06/2012

In one of a series of letters written to his mother following his imprisonment in the Spring of 1947, Bob Mizer penned, "I feel more strength now than ever before, but this strength, this driving energy, shall be carefully bridled and directed with wisdom … My ambition is everything, pleasure, physical sensations mean nothing compared to great accomplishments." Held at a work camp in Saugus, California, for the unlawful distribution of obscene material through the US mail, Mizer did not intend to compromise on vision or subject matter following his release, going on to establish his influential studio, the Athletic Model Guild and building a veritable empire around his beefcake photographs and films.

 

Mizer's correspondences from prison, along with a handful of other selected writings from trips abroad and diaries he kept from the age of fourteen make up the bulk of a comprehensive firsthand account of the photographer's life. However, it is a collection of rarely seen personal photographs that make up the most informative part of the Mizer estate - a selection of which were shown at Exile Gallery in Berlin in 2011, in a unique exhibition entitled "Bob Mizer: Selected Private Works 1942-1992", curated by Billy Miller. His work has appeared in various exhibitions internationally since that initial showing, and a solo exhibit of newly uncovered work is expected to show later this year or early 2013.

 

The restraint shown in his early work is not present in this new set of images, nor is the explicit nature of his later work. Instead, he has captured the feeling behind the words he penned to his mother from the work farm in 1947. That "driving energy" that he felt must be directed so carefully is evidently harnessed in the selected photographs. Never having been included among notable lists of great artists, Mizer is nonetheless an influencer, and this selection of rarely seen works portrays him as such, years after his death, as a new man, in a new light.

 

 

Source - Upon Paper

Jack Smylie

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