Many are familiar with Bill Dobbins, even if not consciously. His work is well known and well displayed, but there is so much more to him than meets the lens. He is not just an amazing women’s physique photographer, but he is an accomplished author in the bodybuilding industry. He was the founding editor of Flex Magazine, and in addition to thousands of articles on training, diet and competition, has co-authored three books with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
His life didn’t start off on the road to a successful photography career in the bodybuilding industry. He went to Paris as a 17-year-old in pursuit of a photography and music. But, his inability to communicate fluently hurt his photography career and pushed him into singing/song writing and some acting. He returned to the states with the intention of going to graduate school, but altered his plans again.
“After a very short time,” Bill explains, “it became clear that the only real use for the degree I was seeking was teaching—which I did not want to do. So I packed a suitcase and my guitar and headed for New York to see what I could do in the music business.
“I loved doing music,” Bill recalls, “the time actually spent on stage performing, and writing songs was very fulfilling, but I came to hate the life—the traveling, the late nights and, sorry guys, spending all my time with other musicians.”
He spent some time in working in television and radio in New York before returning to California and found himself in Golds Gym.
“I started working out at the original Gold’s Gym in Venice, a beginner surrounded by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robby Robinson, Franco Columbu, Dave Draper, Frank Zane and other champions whom I didn’t know or knew only from seeing their photos in Charles Gaines’ and George Butler’s book ‘Pumping Iron.’ Over time, I began helping the gym with promotion and publicity and then staged the 1977 Mr. America contest for Gold’s – a huge undertaking involving a massive parade through the streets of Santa Monica, a live orchestra on stage, 500 press credentials and living legend Mae West handing out the trophies.”
As part of the Mr. America promotion, Bill wrote, photographed and did the layout for a 72-page program. He caught the eye of Joe Weider (co-founder of the IFBB), began writing for “Muscle Builder.” He later became the founding editor of “Flex” magazine, still the leading “hard-core” publication in the field. He then got back into photography for a few reasons: he loved it and “the photographers were making a hell of a lot more money than the writers.”