Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Leonard Nimoy Boldly Went Where No Photographer Had Gone Before

" I didn’t realise it until after he died – for whatever reason, I’d just never done the mental arithmetic – but Leonard Nimoy is responsible for the single most transformative moment of my life. In a very tangible way, Leonard Nimoy saved me."
Lindy West

(...) it’s one particular area of Nimoy’s art and activism that, for me, transcended appreciation and actually changed my life, and I’m surprised by how few people in my circle know about it. In 2007, Nimoy published a collection of photographs he titled The Full Body Project. The photos are in black and white, and they feature a group of women laughing, smiling, embracing, gazing fearlessly into the camera. In one, they sway indolently like the Three Graces; in another they recreate Herb Ritts’s iconic pile of supermodels. The women are naked, and the women are fat.

When Nimoy’s photos took their first brief viral trip around the internet, I clicked, I skimmed, I shrugged, I clicked away.

I clicked back.

I couldn’t stop looking. It was the first time in my life – I realise in retrospect – that I’d seen bodies like mine honoured instead of lampooned, presented with dignity instead of scorn, displayed as objects of beauty instead of as punchlines. It feels bizarre to put myself back in that headspace now (and even more bizarre to register just how recent it was), but looking at Nimoy’s photographs was my very first exposure to the concept that my body was just as deserving of autonomy and respect as any thin body. Not only that, but my bigness is powerful.

Up until that point, I conceived of myself as an unfinished thing – a life suspended until I could fix what was wrong with me. It’s how fat people are conditioned to feel: you’re not a person, you’re a before picture. You have no present and no future; you’re trapped for ever in a shameful past. As a woman, the shame is compounded, because women have an aesthetic duty, too.

(...) for me, Nimoy’s Full Body Project was the first piece of media that told me I had any intrinsic value. Denying people access to value is an incredibly insidious form of emotional violence, one that our culture wields aggressively and liberally to keep marginalised groups small and quiet. Everything in my life – my career, my relationships, my health, my bank account, my sleep schedule, my wardrobe – has got better since I began fighting that paradigm. I live long, and I prosper. Thank you, Leonard.

Lindy West, excerpts via/full article: LINK

The average American woman, according to articles I've read, weighs 25 per cent more than the models who are showing the clothes they are being sold. So, most women will not be able to look like those models. But they're being presented with clothes, cosmetics, surgery, diet pills, diet programs, therapy, with the idea that they can aspire to look like those people. It's a big, big industry. Billions of dollars. And the cruelest part of it is that these women are being told, 'You don't look right.'
Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy spent eight years working on his "Fully Body Project" which he published in 2007. He photographed members of the plus-sized burlesque group "The Fat-Bottom Revue" in the nude. Nimoy wanted to portray proud women who were dancing and laughing, he wanted to show that beauty could be found in different body types since he was disturbed by the fact that overweight women had "this terrible feeling about themselves" (via). As some observed, Leonard Nimoy boldly went where no (or hardly any) photographer had gone before (via).
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

In an interview, Nimoy talked about how the project started and how he felt about it:

Actually, 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 she was a very, very large lady. And this was in Northern California - I have a home up there - and we invited her to our studio in the home and photographed her there.
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 - my wife was there to help. 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.
(...) Heather MacAllister, who formed the group, was an anthropologist by training. And during one of our sessions, I said to her, what are you doing with your anthropological training? And she said, I'm doing this, meaning this Fat-Bottom Revue. And she went on further to say, whenever a fat person steps on stage to perform, and it's not the butt of a joke, that's a political statement. And I found that quite profound.

Leonard Nimoy, excerpts via/full article: LINK

photographs of Leonard Nimoy and Sandra Zober (Westwood, California, 1966) via


  1. Replies
    1. So awesome, so Nimoy. Love this man.
      Thanks, Wim!

  2. Great posting! Thank you!

    1. He must have been a very positive person. I am so happy I had the pleasure to meet him once.
      Thanks, Macy!