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beacon of light

{ BY JONATHAN YOUNG } Leonard Nimoy has been interested in photography since he was a teenager. "I actually considered pursuing it as a career about 30 years ago," he says. "I really felt I had financial security and I had already accomplished some amazing things in a fulfilling career."

Leonard, however, decided he didn't want to be a commercial photographer, so, "I stuck with my day job." His day job was being an actor. At that time, he had already starred in several years of Mission: Impossible and was also well-known for his role of Spock on the Star Trek series. His day job would evolve into becoming a director, producer, writer and poet.

Now, he can add photography to his list of amazing accomplishments with Shekhina, his first-ever photo essay book.

Leonard spoke with Buzz -- after we voluntarily promised not to mention Star Trek -- about his latest venture of pursuing his photography passion. In our discussion, ironically, he brought up Star Trek several times.

"My photography has roots that go back years and even include Star Trek, believe it or not," he says. Leonard explains the subject for his book took root back in his early childhood, even before he developed an interest in photography.

He recalls attending church with his family, and more notably, he can remember the Jewish benediction or blessing during the services. The church members hide their faces -- by bowing or covering their heads with a prayer shawl, Leonard says -- during this benediction. As curious child, "I snuck a peek," Leonard admits. The sight had a profound impact on the young mind.

"They had their hands out in a gesture," he explains, "and that ended up becoming the Vulcan sign as seen in Star Trek." That sign is also the representation of the Hebrew letter Shin, the first letter in the word Shekhina. "I learned much later, only five or six years ago, the reason you are not supposed to look during that benediction is because the Shekhina enters the church and blesses the congregation. "

According to the Kabbalah, evil came into the world once God became separate from the Shekhina, the deity's feminine counterpart. Leonard explains the Shekhina came to be understood as a crucial element of both divine and human spirit. He turned to photography as a means of inquiry into her mysteries.

"This is my visual essay of the Shikhina," he adds. "My Shikhina is flesh and blood." The book includes women, partially dressed and partially undressed, in various places and in various poses. "I have imagined her as ubiquitous, watchful and often in motion." Leonard says the Shikhina is the light that protects the world from evil. "This work is my quest for insight, the exploration of my own spirituality, and as such, has been a deeply moving and expanding process," Leonard continues. "It was a very exciting project. I'm very comfortable with this idea of a female deity. My life is much more comfortable."

The initial reaction to his book has been overwhelmingly positive. "Erotic. Sensual. Spiritual. A Beacon of Blessing. These are words we've been getting about the book," Leonard says.

You can create your own response as Leonard presents his book to San Diego at the opening of the Jewish Book Festival, Oct. 16. "When I do these presentations, I show slides, explain the origins of the ideas, take questions and sign books," Leonard explains.

After his grueling promotional tour of the book -- "I'll be touring for eight weeks," he explains -- Leonard will return to his new day job. Photography.

"I shoot a lot now," he says "What I am trying to do is find my work, so people can look at a photo and know it's a Leonard Nimoy picture."

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