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Leonard Nimoy Presents New Series of Photographs at MASS MoCA
These off-line avatars offer an intimate, sometimes humorous, and often profound new look at the residents of Northampton.

NORTH ADAMS, MA.- Inspired by Aristophanes’ theory that humans were once double-sided creatures with two heads and multiple limbs before Zeus cleaved man in two and left him forever struggling to be whole again, Leonard Nimoy’s photographs reveal his subjects’ other half. Shot in nearby Northampton, Massachusetts, in 2007, the series will be exhibited for the first time this summer opening at MASS MoCA on Saturday, July 31.

For Secret Selves Nimoy recruited volunteers willing to be photographed, posed, and dressed as their true or imagined secret selves. From the popular rock star and Superman to the more unexpected wizard and wood nymph, these off-line avatars offer an intimate, sometimes humorous, and often profound new look at the residents of Northampton while tapping into a shared sense of inner yearning and fantasy. The exhibition presents a compelling perspective on the complex structure of identity as well as an intimate look at the relationship between portrait subject and photographer.

In his previous black-and-white photographic series, Shekhina and The Full Body Project, Nimoy posed and molded his subjects with his own personal vision. For Secret Selves he allowed the subjects to direct their own image -- to show the side of themselves that no one knows, or perhaps the half of themselves they were searching for. He worked with Richard Michelson of R.Michelson Galleries in Northampton to invite over 100 people to a photo studio constructed within the gallery on Main Street. Michelson and Nimoy cast a wide net, seeking businessmen and bus drivers, social workers and house-husbands, clergy and those in their congregation. They even recruited passersby on the day of the shoot.

Michelson relates, “As each subject walked into the studio, some eagerly, most nervously, Leonard approached each for a short conversation. The goal was to put them at ease, find out their ‘real life’ identity, and what inner self they hoped Leonard might capture. At the last moment, we had decided to video the proceedings, more as a method of archive documentation than with the idea of enlarging the project. But it became apparent immediately that these exchanges were illuminating, and would have a greater role in the final exhibit than anticipated. Within a few minutes, Leonard was able to bring the subject deeper inside their own self than they’d intended to travel. What began as a lark for many turned into a truly revealing and emotional experience. And at just the moment they were most themselves — and often off-guard — the shutter snapped. And snapped again.” Accompanying the large, life-size photographs in the exhibition is a video documenting the artist’s conversations with his subjects and the poignant, personal moments he masterfully elicits from his muses.

Leonard Nimoy was born in Boston, Massachusetts in1931. After a stint in the army, Nimoy worked in feature films, television, and theater appearing in many of the well-known TV series of the period and several feature films. However, it was Nimoy's enormous success as Mr. Spock in the science fiction television series, Star Trek, which gained him worldwide recognition. Throughout his life Nimoy has been engaged with photography as both student and practitioner. In the 1970s he studied under the influential photographer Robert Heinecken at UCLA. In 1973 Nimoy had his first show at a gallery. That same year his book of poems and photographs, You and I was published, and by 1977 he had recorded for the Dot Label and earned a Masters Degree in Education. In 2000 he was an artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome. In September of that year he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Antioch University for his work in Holocaust Remembrance, the Arts and the Environment. Nimoy and his wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, have contributed toward a variety of causes including the renovation and expansion of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and the Thalia Theatre in New York City. A new lecture hall at the observatory, the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon, has been named in his honor and the theatre in New York is now named The Leonard Nimoy Thalia. Nimoy is the holder of four Honorary Doctorates and two Master’s degrees.

MASS MoCA | Leonard Nimoy | Richard Michelson |

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