Spotlight: Bannon Men, The Photography of Ace Bannon

Austin, Texas - based Ace Bannon has become a legendary figure among muscle worshippers, physique enthusiasts, and everyone with erotic interest in male bodybuilders.  His original site, MuscleService.com, and the many other sites it has generated, provide a one-stop shop for anyone looking to meet, sponsor, service, discuss, or simply admire the world's most gorgeous musclemen and competitive bodybuilders.  Through Ace's efforts, bodybuilders have found an outlet for connecting with their fans and with potential sponsors, muscle servicers, and photographers.  The rest of us have found the ultimate destination to admire the world's greatest male physiques at the highest level of muscular development.  Ace kindly took the time to explore his success with us.

Where do you shoot?

I travel all over for work; I've always done my best work in hotel rooms and prefer to use them for shoots over any studio location. Using available natural and artificial light sources can make for surprising and pleasing results.

How long have you been a photographer?

Since the late ‘90s; after I launched MuscleService.com I was approached to do photos backstage at a bodybuilding competition and that's how I got started doing physique photography.

Where can our readers find more of your work?

On my sites and now in my just-published first book. Find out more about the book and the sites at BannonMen.com

What drew you to studying the nude male form?

I've had a life long passion for muscle men coupled with an avalanche of unanticipated opportunities that came my way courtesy of fans of MuscleService.com

Was there one work of art, or body of work, that inspired your work more than any other?

There are actually several: Tom of Finland's amazing illustrations, an illustrator called Matt who worked in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and Jim French's excellent and exhaustive portfolio of physique photography for COLT.

What are your thoughts on color vs. black & white physique photography?

I much prefer color over black & white: skin tone, eye color, and color brought into the shot by clothing or the environment all help create mood, tone and energy in my photos.

I also love happy accidents of color that provide unexpected and unintended but fantastic results-like the time I forgot to white balance my camera before shooting a muscle couple in rubber fetish gear and all the images were tinged an amazing blue tone that absolutely improved the shots over what they would have been without it.

Which photographers or other artists have most inspired you?

Tom of Finland's illustrations provided an ideal archetype of hyper-masculinity. Drawings are the only true way to get that gargantuan muscle man archetype and his work fascinated me. The same was true of Matt's illustrations; they were different from Tom of Finland's-less formal somehow-but they also grabbed me by the crotch.

Then I discovered Jim French's softer-edged, more realistic illustrations but those were quickly overtaken by his unparalleled physique photography. The way he captured the male form made me want to do that too; it was hyper-masculinity made flesh and I was hungry for it.

Tell us about your career and training as photographer.

I've had zero formal training as a photographer; everything I've ever shot has been from a deep-seated desire to express my own ideals of what masculinity is. My career has been accidental - what Joseph Campbell the mythologist called the experience of doors opening for me simply because I was following my true calling - my bliss.

I started my first site - The Muscle Service Station / MuscleService.com -- out of having earned a reputation online in the mid-‘90s as being a repository of knowledge about muscle guys and how to connect with them. I was receiving so many inquiries through email that I thought it made sense to put all the information in one central location/website and taught myself how to create a site. It was the followers of that site who brought me into the world of physique photography by making opportunities available to me-even though I wasn't actively seeking them.

The advent of sites like mine really meant a sea change in how muscle fans consumed physique photography and had an unfortunate impact on important pre-web giants like Jim French. He sought me out and we did our best to learn from each other - his team wanted to know how to capture the audience I had tapped into and I wanted to learn more about his approach to the male muscular form. I had the opportunity to purchase COLT from him but ultimately couldn't make it happen; I have a lot of opinions about what that venerable brand has now become....

My own brand has gone through a downturn over the past few years as pay sites have given way to the torrent of free content that exists - our own sea change in the industry. So I'm currently in a rebuilding phase and starting to do new sites and new photography again. It's exciting and rewarding; I'm getting to get to know some amazing new physique stars.

What sort of work and/or services do you do and/or provide?

My company, Bannon Industries, has been around for over a dozen years now and we still provide the same things we always have: web site development and web site management for serious bodybuilders and original, high-quality physique photography. I'd love to hear from any models who are looking to book shoots or want to work with someone to create a site.

Where can we learn more about your new book?

My new book is called "Bannon Men: The Photography of Ace Bannon" and it's a compendium of some of my favorite images from the past decade. Your readers can find out all about it at www.BannonMen.com -- I've also been published in DNA Magazine and online at many sites, primarily my own, including www.MuscleArena.com,
www.BuiltBears.com, www.CaesarWorld.com and more.

What do you look for in a model?

Thick, well-developed muscularity and overall size. My ideal shoot is with a serious competitor a week or two after a bodybuilding show when he's gained some fullness back and is not crazy lean. I like my models to look solid but not like you're going to break your face against them if you're lucky enough to get to plant your mouth on them. That's why I love working with life-long lifters, be they competitors or not; guys with major size on their frames are a huge turn-on for me, both bodybuilders and muscle bears.

Size isn't the only key aspect of the best models, though. A guy can have all the size in the world, but if he's not completely comfortable with himself and his masculinity, muscularity and confidence, that will come through in the images and make them unusable. So in addition to muscles Bannon Men have to have confident masculinity and feel at home in their own bodies.

The icing on the cake - what makes a Caesar or Big Roger or PJ - is when the guy is hot, built, confident, muscular, hung, and totally gets off on being in front of the camera. Those are my favorite models to work with; when the muscle man is having a blast, my job is easy.

What is your favorite part of a man's body?

His overall musculature. What gets me going is a guy whose entire body looks as taut, engorged and stimulated as a hard-on. It's what I think of as a full-body erection and there's nothing else like it. Perhaps surprisingly my favorite time to shoot nudes are after the erection is over and the full-body fullness is still there but not so strained. I always say every man has a cock; not every man has the all over musculature to go with it.

What is the best way for models or fans to reach you?

Email me or post your own thoughts and feedback on the Muscle Forums at www.MuscleService.com. You can also follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/acebannon

Any other thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?

Bottom line for me is I'm a big fan of musclemen, bodybuilders, serious lifters, and all around regular guys with big muscles, just like many of your readers are. I spent thousands of hours fascinated by art that captures hyper-masculinity and one day I decided to put my passion out on line for others to benefit from and my life changed. Embrace your passions and live them out loud; you never know what might happen...

Wonderful words to live by - Thanks Ace!

 
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