Inspired by the concept of hidden identities, Leonard Nimoy recruited volunteers in Northampton, Massachusetts, for his latest photo project, “Secret Selves.” Nimoy invited people to reveal their latent personalities to his camera. Participants brought in their own costumes and props: art supplies, a chain saw, large dogs, boxing equipment, and more. Over the course of three days, Nimoy photographed more than 100 Pioneer Valley residents.
“Nimoy’s different sides came together to create this project,” says Richard Michelson, owner of R. Michelson Galleries, who has been part of the project from the beginning. With “his easy manner of being able to draw people out and in a sense see what people were bringing to this project, Nimoy was able to bring out things in the models that they themselves didn’t know was in them,” says Michelson. Under Nimoy’s gaze, Joseph, who is in the US Navy, transforms into Superman; Barry, a book designer, poses nude—covered from the waist down by his large dog; Aimee, who works in tattoo and body piercing, forces us to rethink gender as she displays both her breasts and beard.
For those familiar with Nimoy’s earlier fame, “Secret Selves” serves as an opportunity to see the artistic abilities of the man many know as Spock. His other photography work, including the “Full Body Project” (portraits of plus-size women) and “Shekhina” (featuring a woman clad at most in Jewish religious veil), offer similarly provocative renderings of the human form. “Because of Mr. Nimoy’s fame, a lot of people will come to the exhibit with preconceived notions. People often come into the gallery skeptical of the work and talking about Mr. Nimoy as a celebrity,” says Michelson. “They tend to leave the gallery as converts talking about the photography.” Leonard Nimoy’s “Secret Selves” opens August 1 at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. Admission $15 adults, $10 students, $5 children age 6-16, free for members and children 5 and under. (413) 662-2111; www.massmoca.org.