My Dad the Bodybuilder
The Profiles Issue of VICE included a portfolio of photographs of NYC-based artist Aneta Bartos’ 69-year-old father, titled simply, Dad. I have been following the development of Aneta’s work since 2012, when I covered a group show she was included in for TIME's LightBox blog. We met in person last year, when I wrote about her show Boys for the Camera Club of New York’s blog. That show, composed of murky Polaroids of boys masturbating, was installed in the rooms of a somewhat seedy Flatiron district hotel, and it made me realize that Aneta was thinking about her work in a much more comprehensive way that simply creating images to be disseminated—she controls their context as carefully as possible, and is an exacting craftsman in terms of color and print quality. She is sensitive to her subjects, and watches prudently over the ways her images of them are presented.
Early this spring, Aneta showed me photographs of her bodybuilder father she had begun making on a trip home to Poland. Using a Kodak Instamatic camera and long-expired film, her father is rendered in his native landscape, a powerful and imposing figure set against pastoral scenes and glowing sunsets. The aesthetic of the resulting images oscillates between family album and soviet propaganda poster, but the quality of the pictures is always dreamy. ”His presence takes me back to my youth, to what felt like an endless stretch of days in a worry-free world anchored by my powerful and loving father,” Aneta told me. “I reflect on how his commitment to education, fitness, organic food, and the simplicity of basic living has kept him so young and full of vitality.” Since we published these pictures, Aneta has returned to Poland and continued to photograph. When I saw the latest pictures, I couldn’t help but think the Dad series might become her best work yet. But I wanted to know more about the relationship between photographer and subject, because it’s not as if she is photographing just any model. It changes the dynamic to photograph someone who is this close to you. I talked to both Aneta and her father Zbigniew to find out more.
VICE: Zbigniew, what is your health regimen like?
Zbigniew Bartos: Before I turned 60, I ate everything, without any special diets or restrictions. During that time most of the food in Poland was natural and healthy, therefore spending a few hours in the gym three times a week seemed like enough to stay healthy and in shape.
After I turned 60 however, I began to pay more attention to nutrition. First of all, I buy all my food directly from farmers whom I already know. I prepare most of my food myself. I also make my own wine and health tinctures.
I eat small amounts a few times a day making sure that the meals contain a good balance of acid and alkaline. I always consume a lot of proteins derived both from meats and vegetables. I eat garlic, onions, tomatoes and radishes daily and my favorite fruit is apples and wild blueberries picked from the forest.