Tuesday 27 September 2016

Feminist makeover for no-nudes Pirelli calendar featuring women of substance

Published 30/11/2015 | 15:26

Annie Leibovitz has given a feminist makeover to the Pirelli calendar
Annie Leibovitz has given a feminist makeover to the Pirelli calendar

Annie Leibovitz has struck a blow for feminism by putting clothed high-achieving women on the 2016 Pirelli calendar, breaking with the tradition of nudity associated with the product.

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Leibovitz chose to shoot 12 "women of achievement" including chairwoman of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy, Selma director Ava DuVernay and singer Patti Smith, taking a minimalist approach to photoshopping.

Comedian Amy Schumer and tennis player Serena Williams were the only two subjects to pose in just underwear bottoms, while artist Yoko Ono wore a circus ringmaster-inspired outfit of corset and fishnet tights.

Asked whether the photos had been subject to digital enhancement after the shoot, Leibovitz said: "There's very little work done on this, it's done black and white...There might be a little cleaning up, but they're pretty straightforward. It was important to stay that way."

Joining Leibovitz at the calendar's launch in London on Monday were three of its models, actress Yao Chen, the first Chinese UN goodwill ambassador, 19-year-old blogger Tavi Gevinson, and art patron Agnes Gund, who was photographed alongside her granddaughter Sadie Hope-Gund.

Also featuring in the calendar are supermodel Natalia Vodianova, writer Fran Lebowitz, Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat, and president of Ariel Investments Mellody Hobson.

Leibovitz spoke of her disbelief at the calibre of women they had convinced to do the shoot.

"I still can't believe the women who agreed to do it did it," she said.

She said that when originally approached by Pirelli she suggested using performance artists or female comedians as a "take up" of past calendars as she did not believe they would be able to make an immediate shift from supermodels and actresses to celebrating women who were making a difference in the world.

Leibovitz admitted that the the idea of photographing distinguished women was a "departure" for the calendar but denied it was a "watershed moment".

"I don't want to think of this as a watershed moment as much as a shift to being on top. This is not a watershed moment. It's been going on. Pirelli gave us this moment but it's always been here," she said.

"It shouldn't be such a big step but it is," she added.

Leibovitz spoke with warmth about Schumer's shoot, which features the comedian sitting in nude pants, sipping a take-away cup of coffee, "as if she didn't get the memo saying she could keep her clothes on".

"We were lucky to get her. I had an idea and she got it immediately. She was so bright. She was willing to play that role.

"I was worried. I asked if she was self-conscious. And she said, 'Do I look self-conscious?'"

Schumer said of the photo: "I felt like I looked more beautiful and more like myself that I'd ever looked in my entire life."

2016 marks the 43rd edition of the Pirelli calendar which has been shot by names such as Bruce Weber, Mario Testino and Karl Lagerfeld and featured famous supermodels through the years like Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Only a select number are produced and are given as corporate gifts to customers and VIPs.

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