Before fitness magazines were filled with sexy and glamorous photographs of beautiful women, there was a time when fitness modeling was quite different. The female fitness models were photographed much like the men: as physical specimens with bulging muscles, lacking any make up or charisma. The sex appeal found today within the world of woman’s fitness came nearly 17 years ago when master photographer Rob Sims was hired to teach fitness photographers how to shoot women. Until this point, Sims was an accomplished celebrity photographer shooting the likes of Pamela Anderson, Tom Hanks, Carmen Electra and other top celebrities. Sims quickly exchanged the model’s tops for items like sand, seaweed, and shells, and began shooting women in postage-stamp bikinis and the skimpiest g-strings the world has ever seen. During these times, Sims and his models created all the poses that modern swimsuit and lingerie models are still using today.
Instead of flexing their muscles, Sims told the models to arch their backs, open their mouths, and spread their legs.
The sex appeal in fitness and swimsuit modeling was born, as was the modern female fitness model.
Today, Sims is one of the world’s most published photographers, shooting approximately 25 cover shots and 4,000 published photographs a year. Some of the publications featuring his work include American Curves, Muscle Mag, Oxygen, Maxim, Loaded, Iron Man, Flex, FHM, Stuff, News Week, Hello, Today’s Black Man, Today’s Black Woman and Today’s Black Man Swim Suit Issue. Sims has also shot for some of the biggest companies and organizations in the world, including Chanel, Nike, and the San Francisco 49ers, as well as all of the largest P.R. companies in Los Angeles.
In a 1996 issue of Muscle Mag, Sims photographed the first ever swimsuit/lingerie issue, which undoubtedly left his mark on the business and helped Muscle Mag’s sell-through rate skyrocket. Robert Kennedy, founder of Muscle Mag and American Health and Fitness, found Sims to be the most gifted and hardworking photographer around, and made Sims his exclusive photographer. After issues of Muscle Mag were pulled from the shelves due to the extreme content of Sims’ work, Kennedy founded a new magazine, American Curves, to feature all of Sims’ hottest shots. Sims was named the chief photographer, and was asked to appear and be interviewed on “Access Hollywood” and other mainstream television programs to advertise the new magazine. With Sims’ help and expertise, American Curves became the nationally top selling magazine in 7 11.
Sims career in photography began at the age of 12, and he studied at some of the world’s best photography schools in England, Israel, Australia, and America. His academic achievements set him apart from other photographers, and have helped him hone his art. However, since a compromise often must be met between good art and good business, publishers frequently use sub-par photographers that are allegedly “good enough” with aims of creating a cheaper product. To avoid this marginalized reality and business model, Sims has founded two magazines of his own, which happens to make him one of the only photographers in the world to also be a publisher. He owns Fit Models International, a glamour photography magazine, and Fit Body Magazine, which is focused on women’s fitness and health.
As the sole photographer for both magazines, Sims’ has complete control over the content that is published, and is no longer faced with the embarrassment of being affiliated with cheap wannabes or average guys with cameras.
Sims is also able to choose the caliber of personnel necessary to produce a successful magazine. He gives special credit to his staff, including Shannon Rosales and Leslie Chan, who Sims recognizes as “some of the world’s top make up artists and stylists.” Together, Rosales and Chan can turn anything into a sexy garment to barely cover up the models and make them look great.
When looking for new models, Sims states, “there are three ingredients that make a great model: passion, facial look, and physique.” Sims is clearly an expert on finding and publishing models with these qualities, which is why fitness magazines and competitions, like the Galaxy and the Fitness America Pageant, bring him on to find models that can be published for advertising.
Sims likes to work with new models to avoid running into the bad habits that other photographers tend to teach. With the unique ability to guarantee national and international publication to any model he works with, he is certainly the photographer to begin any model’s career. By starting with models that are fresh and hungry, Sims is capable of building careers and turning the unknown into sex symbols, which something that he is known to do. Some of the big names that shot exclusively with Sims include Torrie Wilson, Rachel Moore, Moca Lee, Danielle Edwards, Sarah Orbanic, Tanya Merryman, Tina Rigdon, Tonya Elliott, and Christina Linehan. Sims was able to give each of these models page after page and cover after cover, which helped lead to their fame and future publishing success. Some of the models that shot with Sims, such as Torrie Wilson, Tamara Lynn, Christina Linehan, and Nicole Ferrari, were even recruited by Playboy magazine.
Sims is now producing a television program, “Bikini All-Stars,” which is being aired on MavTV. He has 39 episodes a year where he and his crew shoot and interview the world’s hottest models, giving them international exposure. With MavTV, Sims is in charge of finding models to produce television programs with, and in return, he is given shares of the network, advertising, and cash. On a similar note, Sims produces videos on a monthly basis featuring various models in beautiful locations such as Jamaica and Cabo San Lucas. He also teaches photography seminars and advises new magazine publishers. As an outgoing sports fanatic, Sims hopes to begin using themes of extreme sports in his photo shoots by incorporating fast cars and surfboards with beautiful scantily dressed models. This will definitely be a project to look out for since everything that Sims touches in photography turns to gold.