Via The New York Times:
You may not have known that Leonard Nimoy (more commonly known as Mr. Spock from Star Trek) is also an accomplished photographer. For the last eight years, Nimoy has been taking photos of nude plus-sized models.
Nimoy’s project, entitled “The Full Body Project,” is showing through June at the R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, Massachusetts. A larger show is expected to coincide with the November release of his book on the project.
Nimoy’s project began after showing his controversial Shekhina series (sensual images of nude women in traditional religious Jewish wear) at a lecture in Nevada. A 250 pound woman approached him and asked if he would photograph her. Nimoy agreed, and decided that he wanted to photograph her in the nude. He admits that he was nervous about the project:
The nudity wasn’t the problem, 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. I was concerned that I would present this person within the envelope of an art form.
But he soon relaxed into the shoot, and found that he was inspired by the woman’s comfort with her body. Deciding to pursue the project further, Nimoy contacted Heather MacAllister, the founder and artistic director of Big Burlesque and the Fat Bottom Revue, a troupe of plus-size female performers in San Francisco. MacAllister informed him that “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 photographed these performers in various shoots, originally replicating Herb Ritt’s image of a group of nude supermodels clustered together on a floor. The original impulse came from Herb Ritt’s work because Nimoy was intrigued by the idea of an unattainable ideal body that is constantly being sold to us through fashion. Nimoy said in an interview with The New York Times:
The average American woman, according to articles I’ve read, weighs 25 percent 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.’
He went on to recreate Matisse’s “Dance”, and Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase.” Nimoy said in an interview with Salon that he found it “intriguing to find out what a different contemporary approach to those images might look like.”
Nimoy had been lauded as a pioneer in the fat acceptance movement, but has also been criticized by some as exploitative of large women’s bodies.
Though the images are a tad exploitative (photographing any specific group of people because of a specific physical feature can be interpreted as exploitative), they truly are gorgeous. The images seem respectful and tastefully done. They also emphasize the comradery between the women in the photos, and the models seem absolutely comfortable and beautiful in their bodies. Despite arguments of exploitation, I give the project a thumbs up. These women are truly beautiful and are admirably unafraid to show it despite societal stereotypes and “the perfect body” ideal.