**Some of the following images are NSFW**
On February 27th, 2015, legendary actor Leonard Nimoy passed away in his Los Angeles home at the age of 83. Nimoy was undoubtedly famous for his role as Spock in Star Trek: The Original Series. You may not know that he was also a talented director, a singer, and a photographer. Although he had small parts in several films and television series, it wasn’t until he joined the cast of Star Trek that he found fame. After retiring from playing Spock, he decided to pursue one of his earliest loves, photography. Nimoy began studying photography at UCLA in the 1970’s, and his work later was exhibited in his home state of Massachusetts at several galleries. Even Obama remarked on Nimoy’s exemplary qualities in both his personal life and in the beloved characters he played:
“Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy… Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.”
Later, Nimoy removed the gaze of his subject in his series, Eye Contact. He issued this statement on the R. Michelson Galleries website:
“To reclaim their deepest human emotions, the subjects must turn back to the internal space and free themselves of the contact with me or my camera. It is the instant between the private and the seen, that brief affirmation of the self which I find deeply affecting and the one that I strive to capture and pass along to the viewer.”
Nimoy’s work only becomes more and more transgressive. In 2002, he released Shekhina, a Hebrew word that means “the visible and audible manifestations of the Deity’s presence on earth. In time, Shekhina came to represent much more—a softer, empathetic feminine counterpart to God who could argue for humanity’s sake, comfort the poor and sick, and stand as the mother of Israel.”
Nimoy’s first encounter with Shekhina was at a young age in the synagogue he attended with his family. His father warned him to avert his eyes during these blessings since Shekhina’s entry into the place of worship could produce a blinding light. Nimoy remained fascinated with the idea of god in the female form and later decided to further explore that idea in relation to sex and sensuality, as seen in the following photo series.
In 2007, Nimoy pushed his exploration of the female body even further by working with the burlesque group The Fat Bottom Revue. What’s most notable is that Nimoy did not seek models to help him illustrate a theme, but hired models specifically on their ability to shine through as individuals. These models would project their own image. Nimoy noted:
“In these pictures these women are proudly wearing their own skin. They respect themselves and I hope that my images convey that to others.”
Leonard Nimoy was a passionate advocate for women. It is clear through his photographs that he challenged conventional ideas of beauty. What I find most beautiful about The Full Body Project is the fact that these women are relishing in their acceptance of themselves. They are smiling and holding one another; there is no judgement between them. In a society where women, are taught to judge one another based on our appearances, this is so rare. I can only hope that Nimoy’s legacy will live on, in his portrayal as Spock (a role that was visionary in regards to race relations) and his portrayal of feminine power in his photographs. Nimoy championed a world in which men and women of all sizes, shapes, and races had a place.
R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy and thank you for contributing to this world in so many wonderful, beautiful ways.