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The Pirelli Calendar – Through the times

Pirelli have revealed that the photographer chosen to shoot their iconic annual Pirelli Calendar will be Albert Watson. Watson was born and raised in Edinburgh and studied Art and Design in Dundee. Watson shot to fame when in 1976 he landed his first job for Vogue which was the platform he needed to launch what would become a compelling and prosperous career.

The Pirelli calendar has become synonymous for featuring the best models and photographers to have ever worked in the business. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking that a list of those that have been involved with the Pirelli Calendar is simply a roundup of the top models and photographers of the past few decades. Names such as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Iman, Cindy Crawford, Richard Avedon, P Diddy, RuPaul and Peter Lindbergh have all featured in the prestigious annual calendar.

Although nude calendar’s are often tainted for being rather explicit and distasteful, Pirelli have always managed to break that stereotype by creating wonderful artistic pieces that celebrate and empower women rather than demean or objectify them.

Ahead of the greatly anticipated 2019 calendar, Pirelli have added a new feature to their website: The Time Machine. 

The new feature allows users to take a look back through decades of Pirelli’s world famous calendars and enjoy some of the most iconic moments in their history.

To celebrate the new web feature, we thought we’d have a look back on 55 years of “The Cal” and revisit some of those trailblazing artistic moments.

The early years of the Pirelli Calendar saw society rule with influences from rock music and The Beatles but also youth protest movements and anti-Vietnam peace rallies. At the time, the models were newcomers to the industry but cultural philosophy was incorporated throughout the shots, something that was unheard of at the time and in many ways set the tone for what “The Cal” would become.

The first signs of a revolution came in 1972 when Sarah Moon became the first woman photographer to shoot the calendar, completely dismantling stereotypes and taboos along the way.   

In 1974 it was announced that the publication was to stop production which resulted in outcry from the British and international media, a sure sign that the “The Cal” was quickly becoming something far more than a nude calendar, it was becoming an empowering sign of the times.

However, in 1984 the calendar was relaunched with an all-new art director, Martyn Walsh. Despite the 10 year absence, the publication did not so much look to the future but instead, paid homage to the past by embracing Pirelli’s roots: tyres. The all-new P6 tyre featured on a beach in the Bahamas alongside various models as part of Uwe Ommer’s relaunched calendar.

In 1987, arguably the most iconic and groundbreaking calendar was produced by photographer Terence Donovan. The publication featured only black models, including a 16-year-old Naomi Campbell at the very beginning of what went on to become a game-changing career. The following year, photographer Barry Lategan included the first ever male model to appear in the publication which paved the way for many other to follow.

In 1993, Pirelli expanded its international appeal which saw a huge campaign including a famous image of sprinter, Carl Lewis, in red stilettos. As a result of the huge campaign, the artistic direction moved into Pirelli’s headquarters in Milan. It was in Italy that a decision was made to drop all reference to tyres. It was this decision that saw “The Cal” return to it’s artistic and awe-inspiring self.

In 1994, photographer Herb Ritts, put together an epic publication with a packed line-up of world famous models including Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen and Kate Moss. The calendar was entitled “homage to women” and was designed to capture the women of the 90’s and shine a spotlight on all their glories. This calendar really set the bar high and forced the photographers that would follow to push the limits even further, consequently resulting in some truly sensational pieces of art.

As the Millenium turned, the Pirelli calendar continued to experience great success, annually breaking sales records and incorporating further diversity and worldwide representation. However, in 2014, Pirelli shocked the world when they decided not to shoot a 2014 calendar. Instead, they decided to release an unpublished, never before seen calendar from 1986. The project was shot by photographer Helmut Newton and with the help of the Pirelli Foundation, they were able to release the project that was quickly branded an instant classic.

In 2016, “The Cal” experienced even more success when photographer Annie Leibovitz brought 13 distinguished women in their respective fields in what was seen as a celebration of successful and powerful females. The models involved were from varying backgrounds including sport, music, artistic and social. One of the most memorable shots featured trailblazing comedian, Amy Schumer in which both Leibovitz and Schumer powerfully demonstrated that any woman can become successful if they believe in themselves and that the only limitations are the ones that you set yourself.

The 45th Calendar that was shot in 2018 by British photographer Tim Walker. The shoot was named ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and took on the style from the popular fairytale. However, the addition of an all-black cast that mixed both males and females successfully portrayed the popular story in an entirely different yet beautiful light. Big names such as Naomi Campbell, P Diddy, RuPaul, Whoopi Goldberg and Lil Yachty all featured on the calendar making it the biggest in Pirelli’s history.

Pirelli are yet to confirm “The Cal’s” release date, however photographer Albert Watson revealed that he has finished shooting the 46th edition of “The Cal”. He told CNN that “it was a lot of work and I am very proud of the results”.

The calendar is said to have been shot across the US in April and everyone here in the Zero Above studio is excited to see what Pirelli and Watson have produced this year with the standard being set so high.