It’s going to be a year of change in 2016. Starting with the year’s Pirelli calendar by photographer Annie Leibovitz. Unlike any of Pirelli’s work before, Leibovitz has forgone the supermodels and has instead chosen to focus on the other women in our spotlight. In this series, the calendar will be filled with “Thirteen of the world’s most accomplished women”. Leibovitz was given full freedom to cast her famous faces and the list does not disappoint.
The list spans out across the board with recognizable names like Amy Schumer, Serena Williams, Yoko Ono, and Patti Smith. The age range spans from 19 to 82, and it is rich with color despite being in black and white. It’s ripe with racial diversity from Chinese actress Yoa Chen, Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, and black screenwriter/director Ava DuVernay.
To contribute to the change, the photographer has revealed that there will be no nude photographs. Other than Williams and Schumer, who will be partially nude, all women will be fully clothed. Writer Fran Lebowitz, who is also featured in the calendar, suggested that in 2016, “Perhaps clothed women are going to have a moment.”
Pirelli is the fashion world’s go to for nude shoot calendars. So the choice to skim over that is a large change. So why was it made this way? Why take away the models and the steamy sophistication and exchange it for power, elegance, and of course, garments? The answer: Because this 2016 calendar is the first Pirelli calendar to be the sole project of only one woman. Leibovitz conceptualized, casted, and created this calendar herself. Marking the first time a Prielli calendar has been in the sole hands of a woman in fifteen years.
Of the 43 shoots, only three have been conducted by women. One of which was also Leibovitz back in 2000.
As for Schumer, who will be topless and in underwear, let it be known that she, “never felt more beautiful” when Leibovitz instructed her to “slump and let your stomach out.” Leibovitz also let it be known that she “love[s] to take something that you wouldn’t expect and make something out of that, and I’m not afraid of that.” Leibovitz leads us all to our new year of change in how we see beauty and gender. “It shouldn’t be a big step,” Leibovitz rightly observed, “but it is a big step.”
It’s a reclamation of women’s bodies that is no longer erotic, but empowering. It’s not for evaluating. It’s for appreciating. It’s not for gawking. It’s for gazing. The calendar is exclusive. It is not sold for the public and is only being given to top clients. It has been sold at auctions for as much as 2,000 dollars. Along with each photo is a paragraph of the woman’s accomplishments. Making it book-like and rare.
The calendar drastically parts itself from last year’s 2015 shoot by Steven Meisel. The 2015 Prielli calendar featured supermodels in tight latex lingerie. The 2016 Pirelli calendar features philanthropists, writers, art collectors, financial moguls, and athletes. Shining the spotlight on the women who work for it.
Pirelli mentioned they were looking for a change when they contacted Leibowitz. But what she delivered was drastic revolution of their art form itself. While the public has positively embraced this revolutionary new concept from the photographer, she has remained humble and normalized by it.
At the unveiling in London, Leibovitz hailed, “I still can’t believe the women agreed to do it, did it.” She was full of pride. This is an influential step forward whether Leibovitz wants to remain humble or not. The women featured should, like Schumer, feel entirely beautiful.
The calendar beautifully captures thirteen women, not for their looks or sex appeal, but for their accomplishments and talent. While this sense of pride and joy at their intellect and success is honored, they still are presented to us gorgeously. The calendar honors women who stand outside society’s narrow view of beauty, as well as outside society’s narrow expectations of women. They succeed by exceeding the norm and breaking free from the chains of sexism or gender expectations, and that goes directly toward what makes them so stunning. Leibovitz brilliantly captures it all.