The Full Body Project
Celebrating the Female Form
The Full Body Project has been a long time in the making. Leonard Nimoy, best known for his portrayal of Spock on Star Trek, has been teasing us with images on his official website for a few years now so it is nice to finally see this book come to fusion.
The Full Body Project is a collection of 50 black and white nude photographs of the plus size form interspersed between 196 black and white pages. While it is not the first of its kind it is a welcome addition to members of the plus size community and beyond.
This review lens is dedicated to Leonard Nimoy's photographic essay The Full Body Project.
Citation: unless otherwise stated images are copyright Five Ties Publishing and were provided for review purpose.
A lifelong love of the art...
At 80, Leonard Nimoy has had a blessed career as an actor, author, director and photographer. Anyone who recognizes the tall slender man probably knows him best as the pop culture icon Spock from the television series (and movie franchise) Star Trek.
He has had a life-long love of photography, studying at UCLA with the late artist Robert Heinecken. Nimoy has lectured on photography and has had his images displayed in galleries, museums and private collections.
The Full Body Project differs from Nimoy's previous work with professional models who were chosen for their qualities over their personalities to represent an idea or theme he wanted to express. It's been a new and exciting learning experience for everyone involved.
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"The women in these pages are proudly wearing their own skins. They accept and respect themselves, and I hope that my images convey that feeling to others." ~ Leonard Nimoy
Shaking what god gave them...
While showing some of the images from his first book, Shekhina, Nimoy was approached by a plus size woman who asked to be included in his nude study portfolio. The images from that photo shoot received an interesting response that led him on a path to learn more about the plus size form and the attitudes and stereotypes that surround them.
His search to know more led him to fat activist Heather MacAllister who introduced Nimoy to her plus size performance group out of San Francisco, The Big Burlesque and Fat-Bottom Revue. These women are the main focus of this collection.
"Anytime a fat person gets on a stage to perform and is not the butt of a joke -- that's a political statement." ~ Heather MacAllister (Founder of Fat Bottom Revue)
Pages: 196 pages
Publisher: Five Tie Publishing
Photos: 50 Black and White
These are not glamor shots. You won't find any body makeup here. The pictures are real and raw, but definitely not distasteful. The black and white images have strong shadows that highlight curves, lumps, bumps, stretch marks, and facial features but the most potent aspect of the majority of the images, after you get past the nudity, is the eyes. Regardless of their body you can't help but go back to the eyes.
Natalie Angier, author of Woman: An Intimate Geography, mentions this in the Forward and it is so true. According to Angier most nude studies have the model looking away while Nimoy's models take the camera, photographer and viewer head on. She likens the model's shapes to the Venus of Willendorf figurines.
This collection is sure to encourage further discussion on the concepts of beauty, cultural stereotypes, health, and more.
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Similar but Unique...
Leonard Nimoy received artistic inspirations to photograph the plus size from in this series from such artists as Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, Henri Matisse, Marcel Duchamp and Raphael.
I provide the images here not as a means of comparing which is better but as a way of experiencing the image from both perspectives.
Herb Ritts' 1989 photograph of a group of supermodels (Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Stephanie Seymour and Tatjana Patitz) huddled together on the floor was the inspiration for the image appearing on the cover of The Full Body Project.
Helmut Newton's (Dressed) & (Naked)
Now you see it. Now you don't...
A German-Australian fashion photographer noted for his nude studies of women. He has a number of diptych photographs which are photos that compare a dressed figure and a nude figure in the same pose.
This particular inspiration as you can see depicts four posed women. I like how Nimoy's models are wearing their striking Burlesque costumes.
Henri Matisse's La Dance
Join the circle...
Matisse was a French artist who worked in a number of mediums. In his paintings he liked to use bold colors. When I look at his painting La Dance as well as Nimoy's lively interpretation I pick up a pagan quality from it and can almost imagine a stoked fire in the center.
Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase
A French artist whose work was influenced by the Second World War. Not all his work is as abstract as this painting. This was one of his most controversial pieces in 1912. Personally, I like the life and curves in Nimoy's interpretation.
Raphael's The Three Graces
Italian painter and architect, Raffaello Santi, is considered one of the "great masters" of the High Renaissance. The graces come from Greek mythology and are supposed to represent the three daughters of Zeus: Aglaea, Euphrosyne and Thalia and their attributes of charm, beauty and joy.
On page four a group of women stand, two with their backs to a wall and two with their backs to the camera looking over their shoulders at the photographer (and viewers). I call this one "private club" because it looks as if we've interrupted a private moment.
On page fifty-six, six women dance around in a circle hand in hand. Their round curves are an interesting contrast to the square tiles on the floor which to me represents the culture that tries to contain them.
On page sixty-two and sixty-three, the diptych of four women dressed in their performance costumes and then in the same pose naked.
On page ninety is an alternative to the formal staircase shot that appears earlier in the book. The women have left all seriousness behind to strike a pose.
And my absolute favorite is the closing shot on page ninety-two where a group of six women stand close togheter laughing their butts off.
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Leonard Nimoy's nude study of the plus size form.
Statement Or Art?
Nimoy has conveyed a sense of acceptance and respect through his images that extends both ways; from in front and from behind the camera. He has taken the pictures in this book with the attitude that the female body is an art form in all its shapes and sizes and he has used compassion and realism to keep his female subjects' dignity intact.
One has to ask though, is he trying to make a statement with this collection or is it for the pure enjoyment of the art. You be the judge.
Art and Fetish
In a few of the articles/interviews I have read the concept of fat as a fetish has come up.
Does plus size photography have more to do with fetishism than art?
"This is also a book about sisterhood and women finding strength and pleasure in each other's company." ~ Anne Wilkes Tucker
More on Big Burlesque
Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes - by Laurie Toby Edison and Debbie Notkin
"These extraordinary photographs of powerful and beautiful fat women will change your image of beauty forever. The pictures and text combine to send the strongest possible message: We will no longer let society define beauty!"
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