A year ago, photographer Lauren Fleishman became aware of the competitive sport of wheelchair bodybuilding and wanted to get involved. She noticed that photographs of bodybuilders with disabilities portrayed them in a less than flattering way. She worked to avoid the popular look.
“In showing a different side to it, it’s a way of connecting people, a way of changing their perceptions of the sport,” Fleishman said.
Little did she know that her desire to photograph these unique and inspiring athletes would lead to the dedication to the sport she has embraced. After several months, she became more invested than just rooting for her favorite competitors.
Known as “The Beast,” Nick Scott has a motto that has enabled him to accomplish amazing things, despite his physical limitations: “If you want something bad enough, nothing’s going to stop you from getting it.”
Scott, now 30 years old, was instrumental in creating the first-ever certified International Federation of Bodybuilders Pro Wheelchair Bodybuilders competition last fall. This year’s competition took place in Houston on October 13th. He is paralyzed from the waist down as the result of a near-fatal car accident at age 16.
Recently, Fleishman joined Scott as he went to purchase batteries for his wheelchair. Outside of the store, the pair was approached by a teenage boy, who also used a wheelchair. The young man told Scott that he hoped to be like him one day.
“You can obviously see that Nick has muscles,” says Fleishman. “The kid was impressed. It was a really nice moment to see that.”
After spending a year with these athletes, the photographer finds it hard to root for a favorite.
“Seeing what being on stage does for them, they really, really shine,” Fleishman says. “You have a whole range of reasons why they compete, but the dedication and perseverance is really inspiring.”
And that perseverance goes well beyond the stage.
“It’s really hard, because you want them all to win,” admitted Fleishman.