Past Exhibitions > Maggie McNamara

“Ass Moves Mass”: Photographs of Female Powerlifters
Maggie McNamara

Women in strength sports are frequently portrayed at their most animalistic, walking a line between maintaining femininity and being taken seriously as athletes. As a competitive female powerlifter, I set about photographing my often misrepresented community. One goal of my photographs is to showcase quieter moments of the sport—a laugh shared with a training partner, scrutinizing technique videos between sets, a minute to oneself before getting underneath the bar.

One unique thing about powerlifters is how full our lives are outside of the sport. All of the women in this project are more than athletes—on top of being highly successful powerlifters, they are career women, veterans, mothers, and students. The level of dedication, organization, sacrifice, and discipline it takes to maintain a high level of performance in all of these areas repeatedly goes unrecognized, especially in a sport without a lot of money, and especially for women.

Powerlifting is a solitary sport that requires a lot of self-motivation. To be an athlete without a team can be incredibly lonely. Because of this, the community found inside powerlifting gyms is often unparalleled—other lifters cheering on people they’ve just met, quick to spot and load for anyone around them, always available to offer a quick pointer or word of encouragement. Powerlifters are some of the kindest, most welcoming people in the world—we just also happen to be really, really strong.

“Ass moves mass” is a cheeky saying defining one of the cardinal rules of lifting weights—the more you weigh, the more you can lift. Powerlifting is a game of ratios, a back and forth between one’s bodyweight versus weight lifted.