Though his 4-year tenure on Star Trek (1966-69) became his lifelong calling card, Nimoy, who had studied with photographer Robert Heinecken at UCLA, was also a photographer and art collector. His photography has been included in exhibitions at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Bakersfield Museum in Bakersfield, California, the Jewish Museum in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and he published several books of photography, notably Shekhina in 2005 and The Full Body Project in 2007.
From 2010 to 2011, MASS MoCA showed an exhibition of his photography, titled “Leonard Nimoy: Secret Selves,” inspired by Nimoy’s fascination with alternate identities, having so long been associated with his character of Spock. The exhibition, Nimoy’s first solo show at a museum, featured 26 photos of volunteers revealing their “secret selves” to the camera—“an intimate, sometimes humorous, and often profound new look at the residents of Northampton and the inner yearnings and fantasies that we all share,” as the museum’s website describes it. His work remains available at R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, Massachusetts, and Louis Stern Fine Arts in West Hollywood, California.
In addition to being a great supporter of emerging photographers, whom he supported with funding from the Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy Foundation, Nimoy was also a devoted patron of and donator to arts institutions across the country. He and his wife had cultivated a decade-long relationship with the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (which owns several of his photographs), by supporting numerous artist projects, residencies, and exhibitions, including the museum’s emerging artist series, Hammer Projects. Nimoy also spoke at the Hammer on multiple occasions, on topics ranging from Jungian psychology and feminist photography to alternate identities.
“I’m touched by the idea that when we do things that are useful and helpful—collecting these shards of spirituality,” Nimoy once said, “that we may be helping to bring about a healing.”