Nude Photography by Leonard Nimoy
See also: The History of Photography as a Fine Art
Biography by Suzanne MacNevin.
Born in Boston Massachusetts / March 26th, 1931.
In addition to being a movie director, producer, author and actor (Spock from Star Trek), Leonard Nimoy has been a professional photographer for 40 years. His topic of choice? Nude women.
I am not much of a Star Trek fan, so I really don't care that he played Spock/etc. I didn't even know WHO Leonard Nimoy was until I tried to do some research on the photographer and found out he was not only an actor, but a famous one. So for me, my first taste of Leonard Nimoy was his photography. He is one of my favourite photographers and I rank him up there beside Cindy Sherman and Man Ray.
Sadly, I am unable to get dates on these photographs. I realize that this is an art history page, and for some dumb reason I can't provide the dates of these photos (and I've looked for them!)
I also apologize for any possible copyright infringement. I tried contacting Leonard Nimoy to get his permission to make this art history website about his work, but I can't seem to get a reply. He's a busy guy.
Nimoy the actor, the director, the photographer
I think people are too obsessed with him as an actor. He deserves more credit as a photographer. I wonder if he had made his work under a false name, would he be more popular as a photographer? Maybe. Its difficult to guess how his acting career has effected his popularity as a photographer.
To someone like me, who doesn't like Star Trek that much (I'm more of a saturday morning Smurfs-kinda girl), its no big deal that he's also an actor. But perhaps I am underestimating the full power and influence of Star Trek, the original series. "Spock" was the most popular character on the series. "Captain Kirk" was just hormones with legs.
From a post-feminist perspective, the show was definitely influential in terms of the treatment of women... but it still wasn't until "Star Trek: Voyager" that they had a female captain (I should watch that one sometime... it sounds good).
Maybe one of the reasons I am not attracted to Star Trek is because there is no lesbian characters on Star Trek (none to my knowledge), but as a lesbian myself, I am definitely attracted to Nimoy's photography.
To me, Nimoy's photography is about the classical beauty of the female nude. Especially evident in his Borghese series. The flowing clothes in The Shekhina Project also reminds me of Greek and Roman times... it would make total sense to me if he did a series about Cleopatra.
Beyond just the theme, I also like his choice of contrast between light and dark areas, how he uses silhouettes and see-thru cloth to accentuate the silhouettes of his models. I'd love to buy some prints of his work.
I watched one of the movies he directed too: "The Voyage Home". It was actually very funny. I was a bit confused at the start because of the plot, which in turn is because there is other movies that comes before it: "The Wrath of Kahn" and "The Search for Spock". I probably should have watched those two first. My bad.
But within "The Voyage Home" there are a variety of scenes where has fun with the camera, such as the scene where they fall asleep after travelling back in time and have weird dreams about whales/etc. Overall I was very impressed.
Nimoy also wrote and produced "The Undiscovered Country", but I have yet to see it. Its important to note that the producer gets final cut, therefore the director may have made the movie, but as the producer, he decides what scenes actually ends up in the movie. "The Voyage Home" actually has two versions: The regular version, and "The Director's Cut", which shows the movie the way Nimoy intended it.
Out of Ether...
By Suzanne MacNevin / Updated September 2007.
Leonard Nimoy apparently Googles his own name from time to time. We now have his permission to show his artwork here.
That plus the word "photography" and he got this art history website. His first email to us was to inform me that he enjoyed my writing (Wow, what a great compliment!) and to mention his new photography book "The Full Body Project" that is being published in November 2007. Nimoy did some earlier photographic work of overweight women and got an incredible public response from it and decided to continue working with that idea. Nimoy says that " most people will never look like the models selling the diets and the clothes" found in America's billion dollar dieting industry.
Keeping Nimoy's email address a secret is a bit of a challenge I have since learned. Suddenly nerds came out of the woodwork and demanded to see the email (in hopes of seeing the elusive email address). I didn't know there were so many obsessed fans out there (I've also noticed fans tend to just call him "Spock" and seem to stutter over the syllables of Leonard Nimoy).
Nimoy admits he has being doing photography since his teenage years in the 1940s but I have yet to see his early works. He does his own chemical printing on sizes up to 16x20 inches (I presume he hires someone else to do larger sizes). He studied photography professionally during the 1970s but soon realized he had no interest in shooting commercial work for magazines/etc.
Most of the works on this site are from the Borghese Series and the Shekhina Project. I asked him about the names of individual pieces and he responded: " My work is concept driven. I don't usually name images. Just the subject matter." Apparently he's not worried about being able to tell the individual pieces apart somehow. (As a high school chemistry teacher I have enough problems just being able to tell which students is which.)
Nimoy says he is starting a new project in November on the topic of "Identity", which he will shoot in Massachusetts. This coming from the man who's autobiographies include titles like "I Am Not Spock" and its sequel "I Am Spock" suggests that Nimoy has been wrestling with the ideas of identity for 30+ years. I imagine not many people would be able to understand this identity problem better than Nimoy. Other actors in the past have encountered similar problems with identity: Peter Sellers for example was particularly dogged by the character of "Inspector Clouseau" from the Pink Panther series of films and even some of his non-Clouseau characters were expected to be funny & clumsy.
I feel however that Nimoy's photographic works stand alone. Ignore the actor part of him. He was doing photography long before he was even hired to be on the original cast of Star Trek. From my perspective Leonard Nimoy's photography is worthy of art history books and deserves to be mentioned in university classes about contemporary photography. This art history archive is a start.
Like most artists Nimoy is also struggling against a river of influence. The quest to become a famous artist (and therefore a successful one) is a challenge to all artists. While Nimoy has garnered fame in the form of an actor it is doubly difficult for him to be recognized as an artist because the legend of Spock has so eclipsed his life and livelihood.
Begging the question, does Leonard Nimoy go gallery-hopping? According to our curator Charles Moffat gallery-hopping is a hobby of artists/artsy-types wherein a person goes out for a night on the town and visits a string of galleries all in one night. I've done this a couple times and it is a lot of fun (free wine and cheese never hurt anybody!) and it is a great way to socialize with a whole artsy crowd. Its a great way to meet people in the business of art who appreciate beauty, and this applies to any artist.
And while Leonard Nimoy gallery-hopping could cause a bit of a stir amongst nerds I believe most people like myself (namely people who are ignorant to the whole Spock thing) will be much more intrigued by his artistic side.
Our curator also questioned whether Leonard Nimoy has business cards made for his photography. Someone that famous doesn't really need a business card to identify what they do, right? But in this case Charles Moffat said it might be beneficial. When an artist meets someone they may or may not remember to give their name, and the person they are talking to may quickly forget the whole event and will neglect to check out the person's artwork online. Passing out business cards is just a good way of giving people a reminder to go check out that website and enjoy the artwork offered there.
I did some checking up on the popularity of Nimoy's photography website. Nimoy's website is really popular in Arab countries (I think it is partially due to the name "Shekhina"). Its also quite popular in Finland, Spain and Chile. This says something to me: Leonard Nimoy is more famous as a photographer outside of North America.
In English speaking countries people tend to identify him as Spock.
Elsewhere he is Leonard Nimoy. Artist, director, actor. Not in any particular order.