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Leonard Nimoy’s other career empowered women to love their bodies

Aside from his well-known career on Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy — who sadly passed away last week at age 83 — was also a gifted photographer. His partner in photography for the last 12 years of his life was Richard Michelson, who regarded Nimoy as more of a father than a friend. After many years of photographing what Nimoy classified as “classic” models, he decided to do a series in a decisively different direction. This series was published in 2007, and titled “The Full Body Project.”

Previously, Nimoy’s work featured “traditional-looking” models, or as he put it, “always within range of the current social consensus of what is ‘beautiful.'” And while he always thought they did a good job conveying the ideas he was going for in his work, he felt they “were allotted no individual identity.” And that is something he desperately wanted to change.

Thus he created a series featuring full-figured women from the burlesque group “Fat-Bottom Revue.” In Nimoy’s artist statement about the project, he seems not only inspired by these women’s bodies, but by their individual spirits.

Images courtesy of Leonard Nimoy/R. Michelson Galleries

“I wanted these pictures to be more about them. These women are projecting an image that is their own. And one that also stems from their own story rather than mine. They will tell you that too many people suffer because the body they live in is not the body you find in the fashion magazines.” That’s a right-on-the-money statement about beauty and self-image if ever I heard one.

According to CBS, Nimoy’s inspiration for this series came out of a full-figured woman asking him to take a picture of her and her friends. That sort of boldness is exactly what he attempted to capture in the photos that make up “The Full Body Project.” In reference to the full-figured models, Nimoy wrote, “I asked them to be proud, which was a condition they took to easily, quite naturally.”

This series was turned into a book, with an introduction by author Natalie Angier, who admired Nimoy for presenting women the way he did. “It really disturbed him that women who considered themselves overweight had this terrible feeling about themselves,” Angier said to Mashable. “He wanted to show the world that there’s beauty to be found in different body types.”

She also appreciated how he had his models standing tall and proud, often times staring the viewer down in defiance. She told Mashable, “I admire the way he presented the women as standing there looking the viewer full in the face. Saying look at me — I’m entitled to stand here and present myself to the world. I don’t have to be ashamed and cower in the corner.”

While the work received a mix of comments, ranging from praise to criticism to health concerns, Nimoy seemed simply honored to photograph such strong women. “In these pictures, these women are proudly wearing their own skin. They respect themselves and I hope that my images convey that to others.”

See the full photo series here >>

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