twins: marsha reina feinberg

marsha: by the light of my bedroom window

Twins. I don’t mean the genetic type. I’m talking about emotional twins. Two people, when they meet, can’t get enough of each other and after a few days, act as if they’ve known each other for years. They understand each other’s thoughts and quickly have no secrets. It’s something that only happens a few times in one’s lifetime. The bond is intense and forever.

I first spotted Marsha sitting a few rows in front of me in the press section at the 1996 Arnold Classic Bodybuilding Competition. We were both there to photograph the event. I don’t remember what struck me about her but I knew immediately I had to meet her. When I’m working at a competition or a dance performance, I usually keep to myself. I don’t like to talk or be social. I need to concentrate on taking pictures. I figured I’d see Marsha at the next show and made a mental note to seek her out next time.

These bodybuilding and fitness competitions are grueling 3 day weekend events for the photographers. Everyone important attends these shows and it’s the best time to photograph as many people as possible. Shooting begins in the early morning and goes well past midnight. We all use our hotel rooms as studios so we tear apart to space to make it work as best as we can. Often the bed is pushed up on it’s edge against the wall (imagine what the maid’s think when they clean the rooms) so there’s more room to set up lights. Most nights I throw the pillows on my photo background and end up sleeping on the floor.

marsha in her swimming pool. riverside, california

The day after the competition I was booked non-stop. I only had one thirty minute break during the entire day and I needed that time to regroup so I could make it through all of my shoots. I used the time to pass out on my background while I waited for the next model to arrive. It seemed like it was only a few minutes when I heard a knock on the door. There was Marsha, standing at my door with the model I had just finished shooting. It turned out that Marsha had no studio and needed to shoot this model for one of the fitness magazines. Would I let her use my space? I couldn’t believe it. The woman who had caught my eye was standing right in front of me.

I was so tired. I told her, “No”, and closed the door. It probably took two seconds for me to realize I was a stupid idiot and I ran down the hotel’s hallway, catching Marsha and the model just before they got into the elevator. I let her use my studio.

A week later, I’m back at home in New York City and a package arrives with a thank you note and a bottle of wine. It’s so rare anyone thanks me for anything. I was impressed. I called Marsha to thank her for the gift. As it turned out, Marsha and I were both photographing another competition a month later in Santa Monica, California. I told her to book a room at the same hotel. It was a converted apartment building near the beach and the rooms were big enough to set up a full studio. We could get rooms a few doors down from each other. We’d have a photo party!

marsha: at the cal-mar hotel

I was right about Marsha. She was a great person and we became instant best friends. We were inseparable that week. Since Marsha was new to photography I became her mentor. But Marsha also loved to be on the other side of the camera and she also became one of the best models I ever photographed. She was my muse.

Marsha and I were like twins. We were stronger together than when we were apart. Marsha lived outside of Los Angeles so I made as many trips there for work as possible so we could spend time together. When I couldn’t go to LA, Marsha traveled to New York. I photographed Marsha everywhere. She was fearless and has this thing about getting naked. Topless in front of City Hall. Naked in Central Park. Topless in the subway.

marsha in central park

The best was the time we drove to Charleston, S.C. to shoot another fitness competition. Marsha and I had already been together every second of every day for two weeks. One day in Charleston, going to lunch with friends, we decided to travel in separate cars. My car got lost! It’s hard to believe but both of us were terribly upset to be apart for one hour. Marsha was mad at me for riding in a different car. Twins!

During the drive back from Charleston, Marsha and I took pictures all along the way home. Somewhere in North Carolina we passed an empty old house on a country road. Of course Marsha had to get naked for pictures on the front porch. The pictures turned out great but…POISON OAK! We both got it. Of course I was wearing clothes so I only got it on my arms and legs. Marsha’s entire body was covered with blotches. It was difficult to explain this to the dermatologist. We shared the steroid prescription. Twins.

marsha somewhere in north carolina

At some point we had to get back to our real lives. Marsha was married and ready to have children. I stopped photographing bodybuilding and wanted to stay home to photograph dance in New York. Sixteen years later we are still close. Now when I travel to Southern California I photograph Marsha with her daughters, Troi and Sophia. Marsha has raised them to be beautiful children and trained them from birth to be perfect models. I still think about Marsha a lot. Twins forever!

marsha and troi

marsha and sophia

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