Model Profile: Steve Wengryn

Western Photography Guild
PO Box 2801
Denver 1, Colorado

SERIES 44: STEVE COMES TO DENVER

Our first contact with Steve Wengryn came in the form of a neatly typed letter asking whether we offered photos of a model in a magazine clipping enclosed (Kenny Wall). The letter, from New Jersey, included a stamp for an answer, and was signed, “Steven Wengryn.”

In reply, we sent our catalog, and asked whether he was the Steve Wengryn whose pictures we had seen in several physique magazines. If so, we hoped we would have a chance to photograph him, and remarked that body builders had come from all over the country to be photographed against the Colorado Rockies.

Soon after, we received another letter from Steve, ordering photos of Kenny and saying he would very much like to be photographed by us, possibly a few months later in the middle of the summer. A date was set, but it had to be postponed several times, and it was not until November that Steve was able to wire his arrival time.

Whereupon, on a bright fall afternoon, Pat Burnham drove to Stapleton Airfield to meet Steve and get him settled at the Royal Motel, not too far from our studio. Just before our 5:30 closing time he and Pat arrived. Steve was dressed in a well-tailored dark gray suit, white shirt, and neat dark tie. He might have been direct from Madison Avenue. His handshake was strong, his greeting quiet, and it took only a few minutes conversation to establish his personality as one easy to be at home with. He was far from effusive, even a little reserved. This was mildly surprising, because although body builders have many kinds of personalities, Steve had been given much publicity and, at 19, could not be blamed if he had been impressed with it.

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Since we planned no shooting until the following day, Steve said he would like to eat and then get in a workout. Dinner at Zietz’s Buckhorn Lodge showed him to be an excellent conversationalist. He was interested and knowledgable in everything from body building to personalities to theater to politics to world affairs and points between. In anticipation of his workout, he ate lightly of  a steak and salad with impeccable table manners, and it was obvious that he was no diamond-in-the-rough teenager, but a rounded and well-mannered young man. Even in clothes, reasons for the popularity of his photos were evident — a well-shaped head topped by rich, wavy chestnut hair, a beautifully molded face with planes to intrigue a sculptor, and large, gentle brown eyes.

After dinner we drove to Les Workman’s north Denver health studio, and Steve quickly stripped down to swimming trunks for a vigorous and wide-ranging two-hour workout. It was clear that Steve was in superb shape and determined to remain that way, his skin deeply tanned and flawless in texture. Though polite and friendly to those who talked to him, Steve wasted no time in the large variety of exercises that made up his workout, all performed with moderately heavy weights and perfect form.

Back at the motel after the gym session, Steve said he was tired and ready for bed. But after inviting me to occupy the only easy chair the room afforded and lying on top of the bed fully clothed, Steve seemed disposed to talk. I was surprised to learn, because he hadn’t a trace of foreign accent, that he was born in the Ukraine and with his family had spent a year hiding in the forest from the Nazis before coming to this country. His family, including an older brother, Joe, who handles much of his correspondence, settled in Passaic, N. J., where Steve received his schooling, culminated by this captaincy of his high school football team as a halfback. He believes that training with weights, begun early in his teens, helped his football considerably. He got many college offers, and accepted one from a junior college. But he was restless and beginning to get considerable attention following the publication of his first photos, and he soon left.

Steve did considerable physique and advertising modeling, had some small parts on television, chiefly with Phil Silvers, and found himself much in demand as an artist’s model. His fan mail grew, and Steve, ever popular with the girls, for a while had five of them taking care of it in their spare time.He traveled over the country and to Europe modeling and working as a driver. he said he had been delighted with our invitation to pose because he was attracted by the vast west.

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Next morning Steve was up bright and early to begin shooting. Although the day was sunny, the air was colder and we decided to begin with studio shots. In front of the camera Steve proved a pure joy to work with. Perceptive and eager to respond to direction, with a natural grace in every movement and position, he is without a doubt one of the finest posers modern physique photography has produced. The shooting went by quickly and easily, and at noon Eddie Williams arrived for lunch at King’s Court, to be followed by dual posing.

The afternoon air was considerably warmer, and we headed for the mountains under a brilliant sun and deep blue sky. Through Golden Gate canyon and off on a narrow, winding road up Thompson canyon to a favorite shooting spot, we got out to find, to our dismay, a sharp breeze which, at that mile-and-a-half altitude, made stripping down too chilly a proposition. Though much disappointed, Steve was eager to get back to the duals, which were relatively new to him, and we headed back to the studio and a rewarding afternoon of inspired dual posing.

Steve would have to leave late the following afternoon, and we set another session of single poses for the morning, hoping for milder temperatures. But they were not to be, and we settled for another session in the studio. Steve is the sort of model who makes a photographer feel he could go on shooting forever without running out of inspirations. The only surprise in his posing — and it was a big one, which others might be a flaw, but in Steve’s case becomes a virtue — was that he was noticeably shy. He found it difficult to face the camera directly and, in the duals, to face his partner, Where in others shyness can make for strained poses, it gives Steve’s posing qualities of humility and genuineness that provide much of its appeal.

For lunch we went to Patsy’s Inn, ate Denver’s best spaghetti, and watched a pro football game on TV. Then we took a sightseer’s drive around Denver and talked until plane time, with Steve full of plans to return in warmer weather for outdoor pictures. As his plane took off for California, I had many pleasant thoughts of his visit, much anticipation for the negatives awaiting development, and high hopes for his return in more cooperative weather for what should be some of the greatest outdoor pictures ever.

—Don Whitman

(Statistically, Steve is 5-10 and 178 pounds, with neck 16, biceps 15 1/2, forearm 13 3/4, wrist 7 1/4, chest normal 45, expanded 47, waist 29, thigh 26, calf 16, ankle 10.)

Andrew Dimler