A famous actor best known for playing Spock from Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy was also an accomplished fine art photographer. Spannig across a lifetime, Leonard Nimoy photography reveals his keen eye for natural beauty. Growing interest in photography in early age, Nimoy took his first photograph when he was only 13 years old and would sharpen his talents throughout his lifetime with many photography projects. In the 1970s, he studied photography at UCLA with famed photographer Robert Heinecken, seriously considering photography as an alternative to his acting career. However, he discovered that breaking into the medium was rather complicated as his celebrity status as an actor often discouraged galleries and print editors. Pursuing his passion in conceptual photography alongside his acting career, it wasn’t until 2003 that he formally renounced acting to focus primarily on being a full-time photographer.
Fascinated with a beauty of a female form, the nude female body was a recurring theme in his work. Throughout his 30 year-long photography career, Nimoy has created an extensive and provocative portfolio featuring this subject, exploring spiritual, the sculptural, and the voluptuous. Often provocative, his images offer a powerful and daring exploration of issues that society often shies away from, including sexuality, religion, and unconventional notions of beauty. By portraying subjects that often fall through the cracks and are pushed to the margins of society, Nimoy’s photography offers a commentary on the human condition and its false limitations. Commenting on his work process, the actor explained: “The story has to be captured in complete very quickly. It has to something that can reach out and touch the viewer in that instant.”
Nimoy published several photography books and exhibited at various galleries and museums, including the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art where he had a solo exhibition of his series Secret Selves in 2010. Appart from being an artist, Nimoy was also a passionate arts collector and patron.
Featured images: Leonard Nimoy, via mashable.com; Leonard Nimoy - Full Body Project, via good.is
Being a photographer most of his life, Leonard Nimoy was about thirteen when he first experienced the magic of making photographs with a family camera. His darkroom was the family bathroom of their small Boston apartment. His subjects were family and friends. Nimoy’s first enlarger was a do-it-yourself number built around the same time as the family Kodak. Showing his natural talent to connect with subjects and his careful attention to form and composition, these early works laid a foundation for his prolific career.
Featured image: Leonard Nimoy - Early Works, via rmichelson.com
During the 1980s, Nimoy became first fascinated with the natural form of hands. He would revisit this theme through his career as an artist. Through exploration of his own hands and gestures, the Hand Series explores his own identity, both private and public. He even captured his famous Vulcan salute from Star Trek.
Featured images: Left: Leonard Nimoy - Hands Series, via rmichelson.com / Right: Leonard Nimoy - Hands Series, via rmichelson.com
For his series Black and White, Nimoy experimented with studio portraiture, continuing his fascination with the female form. The artist captured black female models and ones completely painted in white.
Featured image: Leonard Nimoy - Red Apple, Black and White Series, via rmichelson.com
In the Eye Contact Series, Nimoy is concerned with artful voyeurism. In this series, models always have their eyes covered or away from the camera. Removing the visual gaze of his subject, he focuses solely upon the natural beauty of the female form. He encouraged models to explore a personal experience, although the photographer’s presence inescapably alters the moment. Allowing his subjects to reclaim their inner self, Nimoy aimed to capture the instant between the private and the seen as a brief affirmation of the self.
Featured image: Leonard Nimoy - Eye Contact, via rmichelson.com
Hugely influenced by his upbringings as the child of Jewish immigrant parents, Nimoy created Shekhina series in 2002 that represents the divine presence of God as a woman and blends sexuality and spirituality. A feminine word in Hebrew, Shekhina signifies the visible and audible manifestations of the Deity’s presence on Earth, but also a softer, empathetic feminine counterpart to God. When Nimoy’s photo book was published, it struck some as revolutionary and others as salacious.
Featured image: Leonard Nimoy - Shekhina, via rmichelson.com
Once again visiting the female form, Nimoy photographed members of a burlesque group called The Fat-Bottom Revue for his celebrated series The Full Body Project. Showing that natural beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and referencing famous images from art history, the series challenged the standard models of beauty and celebrated shapely women. With over-abundant joy and a wonderful sense of freedom and grace, the models display their bodies and captivate the eye with their commanding presence.
Featured image: Leonard Nimoy - Full Body Series, via rmichelson.com
A departure from his black and white photography, the series Secret Selves was inspired by Greek mythology. According to the myths, humans were once double-sided creatures with two heads, until Zeus split them in two. Ever since them, mankind is in constant search for their other half. In this series, Nimoy wanted to portray the alternate identity of his subjects - the creative and sometimes weird sides that is usually hidden from others.
Featured image: Left: Leonard Nimoy - Barry, Secret Self Series, via rmichelson.com / Right: Leonard Nimoy - Joseph, Secret Self Series, via rmichelson.com
During an artist-in-residence appointment in Rome, Nimoy produced a series of images based on the Natonio Canova sculpture of Paulina Bonaparte Borghese in the Borghese Gallery in Rome. He wanted to translate the sensual impact of marble into his photographs, but also the backstory. Napoleon commissioned this sculptural portrait, but dismayed by its sensuality, her husband concealed it under a lock and key. Nimoy also photographed the key to his suite cabinet as a comment on this censorship.
Featured image: Leonard Nimoy - Borghese Series, via rmichelson.com
Ever inspired by a female form, Nimoy created a series of classic nudes. Created in black and white, these images explore the classical beauty of the female nude. Capturing voluptuous women, the classic elements of light and shadow, line and silhouette, visual rhythms moving in and out of focus, in concert with the photographer’s will, define these works.
Featured image: Leonard Nimoy - Classic Nudes, via rmichelson.com
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