The Pirelli Calendar has always celebrated the traditional notion of the pin-up girl: physically gorgeous, wearing little-to-nothing, photographed with the sole purpose of giving men something to drool (let’s leave it at that) over.
That’s definitely what last year’s Steven Meisel-photographed series delivered.
But little by little, things have been changing. Recall the calendar from 2013, shot by Steve McCurry – internationally renowned photojournalist and the man behind the famous green-eyed “Afghan Girl” portrait that graced the cover of National Geographic. McCurry’s shots included a demure and pregnant Adriana Lima, serious-looking portraits of fully clothed supermodels, and as much gritty scenery as there was skin.
And now comes the biggest deviation from the formula of all. A Pirelli Calendar featuring pin-ups who aren’t models.
Annie Leibovitz shot the 2016 calendar and filled it with female icons like Patti Smith, Serena Williams, Yoko Ono and Amy Schumer. Women who are famous and admired for much more than their bikini bodies.
A preview of the images was released today (these via i-D) showing a topless and natural Amy Schumer and strongly posed Serena Williams, amoung others.
Amy Schumer by Annie Leibovitz
Serena Williams by Annie Leibovitz
Patti Smith by Annie Leibovitz
Yao Chen by Annie Leibovitz
Others starring in the calendar include Natalia Vodianova, Fran Lebowitz, Tavi Gevinson, Shirin Neshat and Mellody Hobson.
Leibovitz said, “I started to think about the roles that women play, women who have achieved something. I wanted to make a classic set of portraits. I thought that the women should look strong but natural, and I decided to keep it a very simple exercise of shooting in the studio.” She also admitted, “This calendar is so completely different. It is a departure.”
The bold move has doubtless earned collective applause from women the world over, who wonder if the move signals progress and a cultural shift away from the typical objectification of women. Maybe it even means that Pirelli – an Italian manufacturer of tires – are paying more attention to their (growing?) female customer base.
Not everyone is celebrating. It didn’t take long for a Reddit thread to appear in outrage. “2016 Pirelli calendar features mostly old and disgusting SJW “women”… I see it as another instance of invasion of male space by feminists and an attempt to redefine what an attractive and successful woman looks like,” says the opening post.
A mounting string of negative comments ensues.
Still, there’s no progress without controversy. As for whether this change will impact the calendar moving forwards, time will tell. Each photographer brings their own spin to the project each year, and 2017 might well bring sexy – in the typical sense – back.
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