Per BERNAL
Muscular Development|January 2022
Legendary Physique Photographer
Ron Harris

You are originally from Sweden, correct?

I am Swedish and Peruvian. I was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1964 and moved with my family to Lima, Peru, where my father is from. We lived there for six years until the separation of my parents when I returned to Sweden together with my mother and siblings. My older brother and myself ended up in a small town, Harnosand, in the northern part of Sweden located as far north as Alaska. I jokingly say that I grew up in Lapland with the Sami people (eskimos of Scandinavia).

How did you first become interested in bodybuilding?

I remember in middle school, I used to draw all these superheroes and muscular physiques without even being aware of the sport of bodybuilding. Then I saw the film “Pumping Iron” on TV. It has to be in the late 1970s. It fascinated me and had such a major impact. I was on my school swim team, and when I was 16, we started implementing weight training and that’s when I fell in love with bodybuilding. My body changed quickly and I started buying muscle magazines, Muscle & Fitness and Hercules, to learn how to train more efficiently.

Which bodybuilders inspired you back then?

Arnold was the first one, because he was so different in both his physique and his personality. My favorite though was Frank Zane. I loved his aesthetics. One of my favorite pictorials from those older magazines was a shoot with Frank in the desert. Little did I know that a few years later I would be photographing him! Joe Weider was this amazing father figure to all the champions. I was a foster child. Not many people know that. In that situation, I was looking for a mentor and father figure to replace the father I never had and that could teach me how to become a stronger and more competitive man. To build my body was a great first step and bodybuilding became a natural progression for me. It taught me the importance of discipline and a healthy and strong body.

I think I saw a photo where you competed also?

Some guys at my gym suggested I try it, so when I was 19, I did a show in the junior lightweight division after 2.5 years of lifting. It was a lot of fun and I placed second in my division.

How did photography enter the picture?

About six months before that contest, my grandma had given me some money for graduating high school. The very next day I bought a used camera. I took some courses in marketing and language, and during that time I had an internship with B&K Sports, a bodybuilding magazine in Sweden published by Ove Rytter. While I was there, I asked Ove if I could submit an article and photos to illustrate it. I shot a male and female bodybuilder, wrote the article, and Ove ended up publishing it shortly after in the summer of 1984.

It was such an incredible feeling to open up that issue and see my article and images in it. I decided then and there that this is what I want to do in my life. I studied photography for a year in school, all while I was still working for the magazine on a freelance basis. Ove made me Assistant Editor-in-Chief, and I was writing and producing about 60 to 70 percent of the magazine and doing a lot of translating from English. I began illustrating more of my articles with my own photos. It was such an amazing opportunity for a young man. I was with B&K Sports for about three years. During that time I got to shoot a lot of the best pros from that era. In 1987, the Mr. Olympia was held in Gothenburg, Sweden. I remember shooting stars like Lee Labrada and Samir Bannout and many, many more. Ove submitted my images to Musclemag and Muscle & Fitness, and my work started to get published in the USA and Canada for the first time. It all happened so fast in those early years.

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