Known for its slick and raunchy photographs featuring some of the world’s most beautiful women, the Pirelli calendar has ensured its position as the most talked about annual since its inception in 1964. But times are changing. And although the world’s top photographers still flock to shoot “the Cal”, having 12 photographs of women in various states of undress, often in provocative poses in exotic locations, looks increasingly out of touch in the present day. In recent times Pirelli have hinted at a move away from tits and tyres by finding ways of reinventing the calendar. 2013 saw photojournalist Steve McCurry shoot the fully clothed models in Rio de Janeiro, while 2014 used unseen and relatively wholesome photographs from the ‘60s. But 2016 is surely their most shocking series yet. Unveiled at London’s Grosvenor Hotel Ballroom for the first time earlier today, photographer Annie Leibovitz has handpicked 13 "inspirational" women and, rather than the cream of the catwalks, the lineup includes musicians, actresses, writers, financial executives, models, directors, philanthropists: Amy Schumer, Tavi Gevinson, Serena Williams, Patti Smith, Yoko Ono, Fran Lebowitz, Ava DuVernay, Natalia Vodianova, Kathleen Kennedy, Mellody Hobson, Agnes Gund and Shirin Neshat. There is more clothing, no freeing of the nipple, and it is already being hailed in some quarters as the first feminist Pirelli calendar. There's still some flesh on display in Amy Schumer's soft curves, and Serena Williams' muscle, but it's unlike anything previously featured.
Leibovitz also shot the calendar in 2000, making her one of 10 photographers who have shot two editions (she is also one of only four women who have been in charge of it.) She explained why she wanted to be involved once again: “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. This calendar is so completely different. It is a departure. The idea was not to have any pretense in these pictures and be very straightforward.”