Leonard Nimoy passed away on February 27 of this year. Since then, there have been many moving tributes, in newspapers and magazines, in games like Star Trek Online, and even vigils at conventions. Most importantly, his friends and loved ones have shared memories of the man, who, in the course of his long life was a performer, director, photographer, advocate, and great friend.
Rather than another obituary, we thought we’d share some memories of the man as we saw and knew him, and how he touched our lives.
Nimoy was, of course, a huge cultural touchstone for so many as Dr. Spock. I didn’t even watch Star Trek until my early 20s and I knew about him. There were tiny parts of that character that invaded norm culture like the Vulcan mind meld, the Vulcan salute, and that damn bowl cut. I’m not even sure my little friends and I even knew what a Star Trek was but we knew about him and his powers.
All that being said, the thing I have always found most interesting and touching about Leonard Nimoy is his photography. In particular, his book, The Full Body Project, which celebrates women of all sizes and skin colors with intimate portraits really made me his fan. There’s a tender understanding in these photographs that is truly amazing.
While I have yet to watch Star Trek, it was another sci-fi show that made me appreciate Leonard Nimoy and his talents: Fringe. I marathoned the first three seasons while bedridden, and was stunned by how this show developed its characters and mythology. Nimoy’s character William Bell played off of John Noble’s Walter Bishop with ease. His portrayal of Bell was not one of evil, mustache-twirling laughter, but came with an understanding that there are absolutely people like Bell in the real world, whose pursuit of science sometimes clouds their sense of humanity. Nimoy had a gift for bringing that humanity to his characters, and making them real enough to live in people’s hearts, as he does with Spock.
I don’t think I truly appreciated Mr. Spock in my youth, at least not until Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. But he has always been a recognizable part of my life, from voicing Galvatron in the Transformers Movie, to playing William Bell in Fringe. He’ll always be Mr. Spock to me, but somewhere along the way, I discovered his photography work and realized that he was so more than just an actor on screen. Photography is one of my secret passions, though I have no talent for it myself. I love photographers who can capture the essence of a person through their images, and I find that through those images, the photographer reveals something of themselves, as well. Mr. Nimoy captures such intimacy and beauty in his work, and presents each image with an elegant simplicity, compassion, and respect.
“I’m so intrigued with the idea that the way we present ourselves to the world isn’t necessarily all of us, that there are other identities that we carry with us that sometimes slip out.” [x]
For me, Leonard Nimoy reminds me of family; we were a Trekkie household. My father recently told me he’s been watching Star Trek for 49 years, and Dr. Spock was the favorite of both of my parents (my mother always commented on how handsome he was, and then she’d flutter her hand over her heart). Do you remember the scene in The Voyage Home where Spock communes with the whale? I credit that interaction for my childhood desire to become a marine biologist.
For me, Leonard Nimoy was a symbol of compassion, humility, and humor. His portrayal of Spock’s internal struggle between logic and emotion was so very, very human. I didn’t understand it so much when I was young, but over the years I find myself reflecting on that push and pull. Emotions are thorny and complex and painful and beautiful; it can be such a relief to retreat to logic, but so much is lost when emotions are shut off. In fact, Nimoy (actor, poet, musician, and more) showed me through his dedication to creative exploration that it just doesn’t do to ignore any part of yourself.