SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The late Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy left many legacies in his work across genres, but one that might not be as well known is his role as a champion of beauty of all sizes, including his plus size photographic work with San Francisco-based Fat Bottom Revue, featured in 2007.
Nimoy, known as Spock in Star Trek, had been bitten by the photography bug early, and has photographs in several prominent art museums nationally, including various nude exhibitions like “Shekhina,”
a photographic essay about the feminine presence of God.
Out of this work, he was inspired to do one of his last pieces on nude full-figured women that later became a book featuring women of the late Heather MacAllister’s San Francisco-based Big Burlesque and Fat-Bottom Revue.
For the book, The Full Body Project, he told the New York Times, “The average American woman weighs 25 percent more than the models selling the clothes. There is a huge industry built up around selling women ways to get their bodies closer to the fantasy ideal. Pills, diets, surgery, workout programs… The message is ‘You don’t look right. If you buy our product, you can get there.’”
In the photography book still available on Amazon (NSFW (not necessarily safe for some workplaces)), Nimoy poses several questions about fat acceptance and body image.
On his collaborator, Richard Michelson’s gallery, website (NSFW), Nimoy writes this about his work:
Who are these women? Why are they in these pictures? What are their lives about? How do they feel about themselves? These are some of the questions I wanted to raise through the images in this collection.
This current body of work is a departure for me. For a number of years, I have been producing images using the female figure. I have worked with numerous models who were professional people earning their living by posing, acting, dancing, or any combination thereof. But, as has been pointed out to me in discussions at exhibitions of my work, the people in these pictures always fell under the umbrella of a certain body type. I’ll call it a “classic” look. Always within range of the current social consensus of what is “beautiful.” In fact, that was the adjective I most often heard when my work was exhibited. The women as they appeared in my images were allotted no individual identity. They were hired and directed to help me express an idea—sometimes about sexuality, sometimes about spirituality—and usually about feminine power. But the pictures were not about them. They were illustrating a theme, a story I hoped to convey.
These women are interested in “fat liberation.” They hold jobs in the theater, the film industry and in business—and together they perform in a burlesque presentation called “Fat Bottom Revue.” The nature and degree of costuming and nudity in their performances is determined by the venue and the audience, which can range from children’s birthday parties, to stag parties. I wanted these pictures to be more about them. These women are projecting an image that is their own. And one that also stems fro m their own story rather than mine. Their self-esteem is strong. One of them has a degree in anthropology and will tell you that ideas of beauty and sexuality are “culture bound”—that these ideas are not universal or fixed, and that they vary and fluctuate depending on place and time. 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.
Nimoy’s other photographic work (NSFW) includes hand photography including his signature Vulcan sign from Star Trek, a gallery called Eye Contact, landscapes, and even eggs.