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Bingwa is a Swahili word that translates not only as “expert” or “competent,” but also as “bodybuilder.”
This project began when I stumbled across a website featuring African bodybuilding and was struck by the appeal that bodybuilding has around the world, even in impoverished rural Africa. I traveled to Kenya and Uganda, documenting the homemade gyms and a local contest. I was amazed by the enterprise and determination these men possessed by taking up bodybuilding in countries where there are so few resources, opportunities and facilities for it.
Born in Tehran, Iran, Pej Behdarvand is a photographer who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. He was screening his short movies domestically in film festivals while attending the San Francisco Art Institute where he received his B.F.A. in Film. After his education, he began to experiment with photography and developed a portfolio, which landed him commercial assignments and awards from American Photography and Communication Arts. He is generally drawn to unfamiliar, lesser-known or forgotten subjects, and often uses structuralist working methods. For the series, Full Moon (2007-2010), for example, he photographed the full moon every month for three years in a desire to reintroduce the moon, once a prominent subject in poetry, fiction and art, as a character in our modern landscape. The ongoing Monk portraiture series brought him to Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka to document different traditions of monastic life and explore why individuals choose to live outside society. The ongoing landscape series, Dreaming California, employed the old Hollywood technique known as Day for Night to capture a somewhat darker aspect of the “sunny California” landscape. The series, BINGWA, is his first completed personal documentary project.