I met a strongman in Union Square Park. The distinction was his. “I’m not a bodybuilder,” he said right away. “I lift for strength, and power.”
I nodded; I got it. I asked him what his personal best is.
“A four-forty dead lift.”
Three times his body weight, I thought to myself. That’s something.
Usually, when I am taking pictures in my studio, I am the one who asks guys to take their shirts off. (Human anatomy fascinates me, it really does; how every body is completely different, though the major parts are essentially all the same.) But the strongman was already shirtless when we met; his t-shirt tucked into his trainers. It was a very hot day. Even so, you don’t see guys walking around shirtless in Manhattan all that often.
I asked if he’d been working out at the gym, and he said, No, he’d been visiting his girlfriend.
“Visiting”: I liked that; something gentlemanly about it.
“And what are you doing now?” I said, after I’d taken a few pictures in the park.
“Nothing. Headed back to Queens.”
“Wanna walk with me, and we’ll take other pictures, see what we find?”
“Sure,” the strongman said. He said his name at one point, but I’ve forgotten it.
We took photos in four or five places, wandering around the streets near Union Square, before finally ending up in an empty parking lot.
“This is it,” I murmured, dropping my bag. “Can you stand right there?” I pointed to an invisible spot on the ground. “Now, I know you’re not a bodybuilder, but…can you flex? Biceps? Sort of ‘Popeye,’ you know?”
“Sure,” the strongman said.