It's about to happen again. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new movie coming out called "Kindergarten Cop," and it will no doubt make zillions. Schwarzenegger is one of the highest paid and most influential actors in Hollywood. His last flick -- the space-age shoot-'em-up "Total Recall" -- grossed more than $118 million at the box office. He's bigger than ever. He's the head of the President's Council on Physical Fitness. He talks about a future in politics. He's married to a Kennedy, for goodness' sake.

But while the Austrian Oak soars into the stratosphere of popular culture, George Butler sits back and smiles with satisfaction. All that money, all that power, all that fame -- it all started with the simple click of Butler's camera. For it can be argued that Butler made Arnold Schwarzenegger. Butler's photographs of the young bodybuilder in action in the early 1970s became "Pumping Iron," first a best-selling photo book (with collaborator Charles Gaines) and later a documentary film of the same name. It launched the superbly cocky Schwarzenegger into the public eye and created an entirely new entity: Arnold the Celebrity Bodybuilder.

Since every success begs for a sequel, Butler has pulled together his collection of Schwarzenegger photos in a new book, "Schwarzenegger -- A Portrait" (Simon and Schuster), a look at the actor between 1972 (when "Pumping Iron" was conceived) and 1982 (when "Conan the Barbarian" was released). A show of 50 photographs from that era is currently on display at Govinda Gallery in Georgetown. An exhibition of these prints is also hanging in the International Center of Photography in New York.

As Butler explains, his 18-year friendship with the actor didn't seem to matter when he presented Schwarzenegger with the idea of a new book and exhibition. He says Schwarzenegger didn't like the idea because "Arnold's reached the point where he's one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. Arnold is a control freak, and I'm out of his direct control."

But as Butler writes of his relationship with Schwarzenegger in the book's introduction, "It just wasn't always quite like this... . "

"He was staying at a $25-a-night hotel {in 1972} on the West Side of Manhattan, and we ate breakfast at a Howard Johnson's at 49th and Broadway, right around the corner from this gym," recalls Butler about his first meeting with the then-unknown Austrian. Butler, a journalist-writer-photographer, was doing research for a book about bodybuilding and had decided that the world of sweat, barbells and underground gyms needed some illumination. The hulk before him was the perfect spokesman, he concluded.

"What was evident then was that Arnold was intelligent, but he spoke very little good English," says Butler. "He was quiet, and being interviewed was a new thing for him, but he was very open to it."

Butler's ensuing photographs caught the beauty among the beasts: the ecstasy in a power-lifter's grimace, the self-absorption without narcissism, and most importantly, the not-so-new concept of muscles as art. It was something that apparently hadn't occurred to Schwarzenegger before. "We saw a vision of Arnold that he didn't even see in himself," says Butler. "I remember the moment in which Charles {Gaines} said, 'Arnold, have you ever thought of yourself as a piece of sculpture?' And that was like a bolt of lightning coming to him from Zeus and striking him in the head." Butler would later produce a live show of bodybuilders starring Schwarzenegger at the prestigious Whitney Museum of Art in New York.

Not that Schwarzenegger ever doubted his ability to achieve his "master plan" ("I will make Big Money. ... I will marry a glamorous and intelligent wife. By thirty-two I will have been invited to the White House"). But with Butler's and Gaines's influence, and particularly with the success of the "Pumping Iron" book and movie, Schwarzenegger redefined himself as a commodity -- someone who had something no one else had, something that others would pay to see.

"In the very beginning he was justifiably dubious because there were a lot of impostors around," says Butler of the bodybuilding subculture in the early '70s. "It was a very seedy underworld." Since most athletes are particularly sensitive to distractions, Butler used in the gym his experience photographing Detroit ghetto areas as a VISTA worker. He learned from that experience that veracity in his art came from spontaneity. No lights. Just camera and action.

"I wouldn't know how to use a flash," says Butler of his photo techniques. "What I do is this. I use the best camera in the world, which is a Leica. I use a Tri-X film which is used indoors and outdoors, and I develop all my own film. If I were bouncing around Arnold with a flash, he'd say, 'Get the hell out of here.' But with my Leica, I'd be around him and he didn't even know it."

Surprisingly, the photographs in the book and exhibition are full of contrast, despite the absence of artificial light. The close-ups are filled with shadows, depth and acute definition. Butler also disdains the use of a tripod in low light conditions. "I'll take pics at an eighth of a second," he says, comparing the method to gently squeezing the trigger of a gun. "I just hold my breath."

"My sense is that there will be a half a dozen pictures in this book or in the show at Govinda Gallery that will be timeless," says Butler, who is currently working on a photo book about elephants in Africa and a movie about a troubled Vietnam veteran who heals himself through contact with bears. "Because Arnold will be remembered as a cultural phenomenon, one of these photos will forever represent him."