The recent passing of actor and artist Leonard Nimoy, has left the Mainstream Media and Trekkie Worlds mourning and memorializing the loss, as well as Feminists and Size Acceptance Activists alike. It has also highlighted one of his lesser famed skills, which resonates with me; Photography.

Leonard Nimoy Photo Project

Photo credit: Seth Kaye Photography

This article will specifically be focusing on Nimoy’s Photographic series entitled: The Full Body Project (2007), which has impacted myself both personally and professionally, as well as resonating with womyn world-wide who are still reveling in its glory today 8 years after its debut!

Leonard Nimoy "Secret Selves"

Photo credit: Seth Kaye Photography

Personally, I do not believe in “Happenstance,” but “Serendipity” is hands-down my favorite word in the English Language! Serendipity was myself five years ago (just before embarking upon this self-love journey) walking into an aesthetically pleasing local art gallery in Western Massachusetts, R. Michelson, and coming flesh-to-face with what felt like endless naked fat female bodies.

rmich

 [RELATED POST: 9 Images That Prove Photoshopping Fat on Celebs is NOT Body Positive]

{Important Anecdote: At the time, standing in this gallery and seeing something so unparalleled, unexpected and revolutionary (not to mention printed and framed on a large-scale as the focal point of the exhibits) while also being surrounded by several other observers and my date (all notably thin I recall) gave me the explicit urge to run the fuck out of there (my grad school training has now taught me about this classic flight reaction to a setting that mirrored the unsafe reality of the fat-shaming world I faced daily)! Rather than pride, I viscerally felt deep shame as I saw many fat rolls and cellulite which did in ways mirror my own experience. My strategically-dressed “for my shape” body felt totally outted and exposed – “The jig is up,” is what this socialized, politicized, and co-opted body screamed inwardly. And, in that vulnerable moment, I may as well have been stripped naked myself. Truthfully, at that point in my process I wasn’t ready to receive Leonard’s ultimate message (which I spend so much time expressing through photography and writing now): ALL bodies are beautiful!} 

Serendipity is also the fact that five years later, I am not only able to reflect upon my own growth, but am actually being paid to write about it (bless your unique soul, Ravneet Vohra) and in a position to share it with others; all while honoring the radically inspiring viewpoint that Leonard provided behind the lens. Seeing these images from where I sit typing now in my 28 year old body, I feel nothing but a pure joy and celebration of socially unappreciated, marginalized, and often shamed bodies, which are also: RADIANT, HONEST, and BRILLIANT!

[RELATED POST: Body Positivity as a Dancer: An Interview With Afia Thompson]

The Following are 8 Photographs that I selected from The Full Body Project, which showcase Leonard Nimoy’s long-lasting and prosperous contribution to Size Acceptance/Body Positive Movement!

Zz269-49

My process was simple, yet different than how I had worked in the past. I was initially interested in revisiting two works of female subjects by Herb Ritts and Helmut Newton: specifically Ritts’ image of a group of supermodels, who were posed nude and clustered together on the floor, and a Newton diptych wherein the two images are identical in pose, except one image showed the models clothed, and the other showed them unclothed. The models were shown the images by Herb Ritts and Helmut Newton and they were quite prepared to present themselves in response to the poses that those images suggested. I asked them to be proud, which was a condition they took to easily, quite naturally. Having completed the compositions that were initially planned, I then asked them to play some music that they had brought with them, and they quickly responded to the rhythms, dancing in a free-form circular movement with in the space. It was clear that they were comfortable with the situation, with each other, and were enjoying themselves.” – Leonard Nimoy, artist statement

Zz273-59

Zz270-42

This current body of work is a departure for me. For a number of years, I have been producing images using the female figure. I have worked with numerous models who were professional people earning their living by posing, acting, dancing, or any combination thereof. But, as has been pointed out to me in discussions at exhibitions of my work, the people in these pictures always fell under the umbrella of a certain body type. I’ll call it a “classic” look. Always within range of the current social consensus of what is “beautiful.” In fact, that was the adjective I most often heard when my work was exhibited. The women as they appeared in my images were allotted no individual identity. They were hired and directed to help me express an idea—sometimes about sexuality, sometimes about spirituality—and usually about feminine power. But the pictures were not about them. They were illustrating a theme, a story I hoped to convey.” -Leonard Nimoy, artist statement

Zz304

These women are interested in “fat liberation.” They hold jobs in the theater, the film industry and in business—and together they perform in a burlesque presentation called “Fat Bottom Revue.” (*from San Francisco!) The nature and degree of costuming and nudity in their performances is determined by the venue and the audience, which can range from children’s birthday parties, to stag parties. I wanted these pictures to be more about them. These women are projecting an image that is their own. And one that also stems from their own story rather than mine. Their self-esteem is strong. One of them has a degree in anthropology and will tell you that ideas of beauty and sexuality are “culture bound”—that these ideas are not universal or fixed, and that they vary and fluctuate depending on place and time. They will tell you that too many people suffer because the body they live in is not the body you find in the fashion magazines.” -Leonard Nimoy, artist statement

Zz303

When we first exhibited Mr. Nimoy’s work, we did so under a pseudonym. The response from critics and our collectors was astoundingly positive. We had “discovered” a new talent in the field, and his work was selling. Mr. Nimoy started taking photographs at age 13, developing them in his bathroom-darkroom of his small Boston apartment. He studied photography with Robert Heineken at UCLA, and at one point seriously considered leaving acting to concentrate on his photography. He is no dilettante, having studied the field for almost 70 years.” – Richard Michelson (R. Michelson Galleries)

Zz302

“It began with an individual lady who came to me after a presentation I was doing. It was a seminar of some previous work. And she said to me you’re working with a particular body-type model, which was true at the time. She said, I’m not of that type; I’m of a different body type. Will you be interested in working with me?…And that was the first time I had photographed a person of that size and shape, that kind of body type, and it was scary. I was uncomfortable, nervous…I was not sure exactly how to go about it or whether I would do her justice. I didn’t know quite how to treat this figure. And I think that’s a reflection of something that’s prevalent in our culture. I think, in general, we are sort of conditioned to see a different body type as acceptable and maybe look away when the other body type arrives. It was my first introduction of that kind of work. And when I showed some of that work, there was a lot of interest. And it led me to a new consciousness about the fact that so many people live in body types that are not the type that’s being sold by fashion models.” – Leonard Nimoy, NPR interview

Zz299

In case you haven’t figured it out from gazing upon these stellar photographs yet: LEONARD NIMOY WAS/IS A FEMINIST! Not only is his The Full Body Project a beautiful example of that, but so is his series entitled Shekhina, which depicts God in the Divine Feminine form and is rooted in Jewish beliefs – the images I witnessed first-hand of mostly nude womyn wearing traditionally “male-only” prayer attire was extremely powerful, liberating, and emotionally movingAmong many other Feminist stances taken in his lifetime, Nimoy also actively fought for the rights of a Black female cast member on Star Treck , Nichelle Nichols, who was receiving lesser pay in the 1960s – *an issue  womyn of color, and all womyn, are still facing in the work force 55 years later (I hope other male-indentified readers and allies are taking notes here)!

 

Leonard-Nimoy-Full-Body-Series-12

 

“Any time there is a fat person onstage as anything besides the butt of a joke, it’s political. Add physical movement, then dance, then sexuality and you have a revolutionary act.” – Heather MacAllister

 

242-48

*This article is also in honor of Heather MacAllister, (photographed here by Nimoy) Founder and Artistic Director of The Original Fat-Bottom Revuewho passed from this world to the next on Feb. 13, 2007 of Ovarian Cancer (*an illness, it is important to remember oh judgmental ones, that can afflict womyn of any body size).

*Unfortunately in much of my research I found people linking Heather’s cancer with her labelled “obesity” – I truly believe these hateful musings are a result of living in a fatphobic society where the last fully acceptable prejudice is against the fat body. I was, however, disgusted to find that not just invisible internet trollers were making ignorant comments, but that in an interview from 2007 with NPR , Leonard successfully maneuvered around what was a total and complete fat shaming and biased stance taken by the interviewer. 

I had to end this article with a beautiful example of Leonard’s eloquence:

SIMON(interviewer): …“and I have to note there is, as you know, I’m certain, a study that just came out this week that suggests a link between obesity and cancer.”

Mr. NIMOY: “…I’m also aware that there are studies that tell us that stress and lack of self-image, lack of self-esteem, severe dieting, binge dieting and binge eating can also be very damaging to a body and bring on various kinds of abnormalities. So one wonders if there is a counterbalance to this issue…”

 

#ThanksForWearingYourVoice!

Rest in Power, Leonard!

Leonard-Nimoy-leonard-nimoy-9475233-1000-840

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 11.47.30 PM

Leonard’s final eloquent tweet…I consider this article my thoughtful response not only to be sent through cyber space, but the cosmic universe straight to his soul.

 

Comments