Leonard Nimoy was of course best known for his role as the logical and wise Vulcan Mr. Spock on “Star Trek.” But in addition to acting, directing and songwriting, Nimoy, who died last week at 83, was an avid photographer. Among his photography exhibits and books is one that seems surprising even for the artistically inclined Nimoy: the 2007 book "The Full Body Project," a collection of photographs Nimoy had been taking for years of plus-size women.
The project, he told the New York Times in 2007, was a response to the pressure women feel from the fashion industry to be a size 2.
The project was inspired by photos he began taking in 1999 called the Shekhina series, which were controversial erotic photos of naked Jewish women partially clad in male religious garb. ("The Shekhina Project" also became a book in 2002.) Nimoy, whose parents were Russian Jews, told the New York Times that when he exhibited the photos, a plus-size woman approached him and asked if he wanted to take photos of someone with her body type.
When she arrived to his home, he said, she came with a lot of props, but Nimoy's wife suggested she pose nude, according to the New York Times. “The nudity wasn’t the problem,” he said, “but I’d never worked with that kind of a figure before. I didn’t quite know how to treat her. I didn’t want to do her some kind of injustice."
At his next photo exhibition, the image of the woman was the one that got the most attention, so he began collaborating with Heather MacAllister, the founder of a troupe of plus-size performers in San Francisco called Big Burlesque and the Fat Bottom Revue. MacAllister and some women from her troupe became his subjects for "The Full Body Project."
For Nimoy, the project wasn't just aesthetic; it was also political -- something he learned from MacAllister, who told him, according to the New York Times, "Any time a fat person gets on a stage to perform and is not the butt of a joke — that’s a political statement."
Nimoy's funeral was held in Los Angeles on Sunday.