Secret Selves, an exhibition of twenty-six color photos taken by Leonard Nimoy, will open August 1 at the Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts.
Although some of Nimoy’s photography can be seen in various museum collections, this is Nimoy’s first solo show at a major museum.
In an interview with A.V. Club, Nimoy explained how he chose the subjects for Secret Selves. “I came across a story that comes down to us from ancient Greece; supposedly, Aristophanes, the playwright/philosopher, was at one of Sophocles’ symposia and posited a fanciful explanation for human angst, anxiety, and emotional discomfort. He said that at one time, humans were double people, with four arms, four legs, and two heads, attached back-to-back to one another in all the various combinations of male and female. So when man became powerful and arrogant, the gods were angry and sent Zeus to solve the problem, which he did by taking a big sword and splitting everybody in two, sending them on their separate paths. And ever since then, said Aristophanes, humans have been searching for the other, lost part of themselves, to make themselves feel whole again, to reintegrate.
“I was struck by that idea, that many of us have another side to us that we are not in touch with, or that we do not get a chance to explore or present. We present a certain aspect of ourselves, but there are other unexplored, or hidden, or lost parts to ourselves. So with that in mind, I gave that story to my gallerist in Northampton, Massachusetts, a very active and creative guy in the community, and I told him “I want to photograph a lot of people—try to round up a hundred if you can—and ask them to come as their secret selves.”
Nimoy chose one hundred people and each subject was asked “Why do you think you are?” The photographs are a result of each person’s “alternate identity,” which include identities such as Superman, a wizard, a dancer, a violinist and more. Nimoy explained that “They all came with their own story. Each of them had written a brief statement about who they were in their obvious daily lives, and what their hidden or secret fantasy self was all about. They came with their own wardrobe and their own props or whatever.”