As no stranger to portrait photography that captures the essence of humanity in its natural beauty, Michel Leroy knew he was onto something with his most recent photo series.

Leroy’s stunning photo collection—titled “Alchemy” for reasons that become obvious upon first viewing—does so much with so little.

With the nude bodies of professional athletes as his only subject matter, the images capture the ethereal beauty of the human form, without the sexual objectification that often comes along with shooting the body in its most vulnerable state. On his intentions with the photo series, Leroy says:

“Over the years I have photographed so many athletes and know how they move with a body-awareness and confidence that transcends the average. We live in such a volatile moment of history that anything which addresses race and gender is emotionally supercharged so I wanted to create body-positive images that are inclusive of size and diversity, images that unite and celebrate a range of athletes without sexual objectification.“

Leroy certainly succeeds in this feat—the photos feature figures that are seemingly sculptural in their nature, creating a perfect balance of elegance and precision. The metallic skin is striking and accentuates the contours of the subject’s body, resulting in a vivid photo that celebrates athletic vitality while maintaining the pure delicacy of the bare body.

So how did Leroy do it? Months of experimentation with various techniques and combinations of digital and film equipment. Leroy says, “It’s the combination of gear and lighting that gives the skin the unique dark metallic look not body paint or Photoshop.” The project, which took almost a year to complete and features over 30 athletes, was born from a creative exploration that allowed Leroy “to create a series of images that explore a single idea in depth.” Once he honed his technique and realized the truly unique nature of the images, Leroy made it a point to keep the project out of the social spotlight until he was ready to unveil what he’d created. As far as his process goes, the poses may look effortless and dripping with poise, but what it took to get the shots actually required a great deal of diligence and exactitude—”Because I am shooting digital with studio strobes I can capture high-speed action but the process itself is very, very slow,” Leroy explains.

While the brilliant quality of “Alchemy” is apparent even when viewing the images from a computer screen, they truly come to life in large scale prints. Printed onto pristine museum quality archival paper, the 3×4 foot prints are entrancing, making even the smallest details come into astounding clarity. I can only dream of having one of these photo prints hanging over my fireplace some day.

Leroy’s website currently features just 25 images of the “Alchemy” collection, but over 50 more are set to be released in the months ahead. Visit the site to witness Leroy’s stunning creation for yourself…but if you need a quick preview, here are some of my favorites: