Pirelli unveiled its 2017 Calendar in Paris on 29 November, 2016. What’s so special about The Cal?
Well, the Italian tyre manufacturer has transformed what is usually deemed standard-fare marketing collateral into an iconic piece of collectable artwork – invariably shot by a famous photographer, and with attractive models or actresses gracing the pages of the calendar.
Since its inception in 1964, The Cal has been noted for its racy pictures infused with nudity. In more recent years, it has tested the boundaries of fashion-art with plus-sized subjects, baby-boomer celebrities and less nudity.
2017 is exceptional for being star-studded with A-listers. Making the role call are Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, Lupita Nyong’o, Charlotte Rampling, Lea Seydoux, Uma Thurman, Alicia Vikander, Kate Winslet, Robin Wright, and Zhang Ziyi.
There’s also a non-actress this time – Anastasia Ignatova, who teaches political theory at the prestigious Moscow State University.
Kudos must go to Peter Lindbergh for pulling off this major Hollywood casting. The acclaimed German photographer and director counts many of the stars in this line-up as his personal friends. Getting them all to agree to this 2017 collaboration was easy for him.
In a relaxed press interview at Hotel Ritz in Paris, Lindbergh joked, “Everyone in this calendar, at one point in my life, I wanted to marry. I just didn’t have the balls to ask them!”
And for those he didn’t personally know, the actresses were already familiar with the Pirelli Calendar and his amazing work. Zhang, 37, effused in a video clip: “I was dying to work with him. My dream becomes true.”
Over a four-week period in May and June 2016, the latest Cal was shot in Berlin, London, Los Angeles, Le Touquet and New York. The locations were of no consequence, though, and more of a logistics convenience to gather the subjects for the shoot.
Most of the black-and-white shots are extreme close-ups, without much backdrop, and the subjects wear very little make-up, so you get to see the subjects like you’ve never seen them before – with wrinkles, crow’s feet, freckles and all.
“There is very little re-touching,” said Lindbergh.
In contrast to two of his earlier works for The Cal, in 1996 and 2002, featuring nubile beauties, Lindbergh’s 2017 calendar is themed “Emotional.”
Lindbergh told us he wanted “to create a calendar not around perfect bodies, but on sensitivity and emotion, stripping down to the very soul,” to make his subjects become “more nude than naked.”
Indeed, it is a celebration of timeless beauty – the average age of the subjects is mid-40s, book-ended by Vikander, 28, and Mirren, 71.
There is also a sense of the abstract. Lindbergh mentioned, “Kate wanted me to shoot the back of her hands, as at 40 they have changed since she was 30 or 20.”
We get to see Winslet’s close-up hands’ shot in May, and Mara’s lips up-close in June, for instance.
Throughout the brief 20-minute interview, Lindbergh, 72, showed himself to be soft-spoken, upfront, and personable. He is certainly a charismatic and disarming photographic maestro, without airs. It’s plain to see how he is able to make his subjects so relaxed, enabling him to capture their inner beauty, behind their often Photoshopped facades.
When asked what he thought of the calendar, he gazed across the room at a copy on an easel stand and said, “It’s beautiful, no?”
“And we don’t do naked anymore,” as the media group in the room broke into laughter.
At the press conference held the next day at Hotel Salomom de Rothschild, Lindbergh was joined by Kidman, Mirren, and Thurman. Their close bond and friendship are obvious on stage. All of them sang praises for Lindbergh’s ability to portray natural beauty in its pure essence.
“Peter accepts you for who you are. He doesn’t want to change you when you show up, and that’s a delight. And for Pirelli to accept the concept should be applauded,” says Kidman, 49.
Mirren snapped her fingers, “I said ‘Yes!’ like that. Peter makes it all so organic. You think it’s just a test shot, and then realise it’s the actual shoot,” added Mirren.
On a more serious note, Mirren shared this commentary: “My advice for young girls would be to look at the Pirelli Calendar. The reality is, we live, we love, we continue, we contribute, and that’s the role of women. It’s incredibly challenging for young girls these days, and we must remind them that life goes on for a long time and you’ll be many things in that time.”
The launch was fittingly capped off with a red carpet gala dinner event at Cite du Cinema, France’s leading film studio. Rampling and Ignatova joined the 800 international guests.
Rampling, 70, summarised, “He [Lindbergh] shoots women in a way I’ve never seen before. He is able to get inside of them to find the authentic essence of women. Doesn’t need make-up, doesn’t need any artifices. He just makes extraordinary pictures of women. And he makes a ‘fxxxxxg’ amazing calendar!”
Lindbergh is the only photographer who has helmed the Pirelli calendar three times. 2017 will probably go down as the Oscar-worthy Cal. For the record, seven of the stars featured are indeed Oscar winners. It’s an artsy feminist and thinking man’s edition.
As always, the Pirelli Calendar is very exclusive. Only one hundred elusive copies will be in “circulation” for South East Asia.
Read about the 50 years of Pirelli Calendar.