So It Begins...: | Bob Mizer: Socially Redeeming Value 1955-1975

So It Begins...: | Bob Mizer: Socially Redeeming Value 1955-1975


August 3 - September 30, 2023

Opening Reception:
August 3, 2023
6 - 8 PM PST

Main Gallery
Free to Members and the Public

A continuing exhibit in The Bob Mizer Foundation Gallery introduces visitors to a selection of the photographer’s controversial postwar images.

Following on the heels of its first exhibit in its new headquarters, The Bob Mizer Foundation is hosting So It Begins: Bob Mizer Socially Redeeming Value 1955-1975. The exhibit, which runs Aug. 3-Sept. 30, will feature a collection of images that detail the ways in which the artist presented his models in order to meet the vague legal standards of possessing social value.

The landmark 1957 Supreme Court case Roth v. United States saw the high court redefine what constitutes obscene materials that would fail to be protected by the First Amendment.

“In the case of Bob Mizer and his contemporaries, that meant presenting their male models in a more ‘wholesome’ light in order to justify their work as possessing what was considered to be socially redeeming value,” explains Den Bell, founder and CEO of The Bob Mizer Foundation. “Mizer and other photographers published their work under the guise that they were presenting healthful living through adherence to exercise and good dietary habits – that these men’s bodies showed standards their audience should strive to meet. Of course, we know this was Mizer’s way to morally censor himself. But we also know his work and his editorial writing in Physique Pictorial possessed a sly wink to the audiences who were overwhelmingly consuming his work because of the sexual desire it stirred in them.”

The exhibit will include a selection of images from the Foundation’s archives, spanning the years immediately before and more than a decade following the Roth ruling. The images feature models both at play and at rest, both in costume and unclothed, both in images that have been published in print media and in stills from Mizer’s films. Unlike the Foundation’s inaugural exhibit, which focused on the artist’s unknown subjects and earlier work, this exhibit will feature many longtime Mizer fan favorites, including Jim Paris and Ed Fury.

“Audiences will find themselves much more familiar with the subjects presented in this exhibit,” Bell says, “and we hope that they take with them some greater knowledge about the ways in which mid-century male physique photographers censored their own images out of a need for self-preservation.”