2015 has seen one or two events occur that might give us reason to hope that society could be veering away from the one-dimensional, sexist way it frequently paints women in various publications. Infamous titles of the lads’ mags era, FHM and Zoo, both ceased trading recently, and Playboy announced the end of their naked centrefolds.
Now the Pirelli calendar, known for its portrayals of unrealistic, unattainable images of the “perfect” female form (usually fronted by an equally flawless celebrity figure), has opted for a sharp change of direction for its 2016 edition. Previously labelled as outdated and objectifying thanks to its many nude portraits, it made what many have called an “inspirational departure” and instead of models, it will feature candid portraits of powerful, motivational women, including the likes of Serena Williams, Amy Schumer and Patti Smith.
Shot by acclaimed photographer Annie Leibovitz, the line-up also includes Fran Lebowitz, Yoko Ono, Tavi Gevinson, Ava DuVernay, Natalia Vodianova, Agnes Gund, Kathleen Kennedy, Mellody Hobson, Shirin Neshat, and Yao Chen.
Pirelli unveiled their new concept highlighting these 13 influential women from all different backgrounds and achievements today. Leibovitz noted that the Italian company was the driving force behind the departure. “They came to me with the mandate that they would like to do something different,” she said.
Leibovitz’s powerful and candid black and white photographs, shot in her New York studio in May last year were described by Pirelli CEO, Marco Tronchetti Provera, as “a calendar based on the equality of women all around the world.”
The shift from shooting models to such women is a huge statement for the brand – especially when you consider that last year’s theme for the collector’s calendar was ‘fetish’.
Russian model and charity founder, Natalia Vodianova added, “I was very moved by her [Leibovitz’s] vision of the calendar. Society is moving towards embracing all kinds of women and empowering them further to do more, to say more, to be stronger, and I’m very happy for Pirelli calendar that it’s going in that direction.”
The calendar features only two nude photographs (significantly less than previous years) of sports star Serena Williams and comedian Amy Schumer, who joked that she ‘forgot the memo’ about keeping her clothes on.
“I’m 34, and everything is about to drop, so let’s get a shot of it while it’s still up there,” said Schumer.
Even Leibovitz found the experience moving, saying: “I felt more empowered with every shot we took.”
The company’s new vision sends out an undoubtedly strong message: ignore the warped idea of industry perfection, embrace your individuality, excel in your field and you will (rightfully) be celebrated for doing so.
Let’s hope that competitive publications take a leaf out of the calendar’s pages and set about featuring female images, which aim to inspire, rather than objectify.
Via Harper’s Bazaar