For years, the annual Pirelli calendar — shot by legendary photographers like Mario Testino, Nick Knight, Patrick Demarchelier, Steven Meisel, and more — was all about top models and sex on the beach. It was #fitspo to rival the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. But over the past few years, the construct of beauty has started to evolve. In 2015, the calendar included a plus-sized model. And last year, Annie Leibovitz chose not to feature models and opted to include inspiring women like Tavi Gevinson and Patti Smith.
With this year’s edition, the photographs venture even further away from the calendar’s roots and instead celebrate the inherent beauty of women and their raw essences. Through the lens of photographer Peter Lindbergh, that means showing accomplished women of all ages (like Helen Mirren, Robin Wright, and Russian professor Anastasia Ignatova) like we’ve never seen them before: made-under and unretouched. Today, as Vogue reports, Lindbergh spoke at a press conference in Paris about his concept for the shoot, saying, “In a time when women are represented in the media, in every way else, as ambassadors of perfection and youth, I thought it was important to remind everyone that there is a different beauty, more real and truthful, and not manipulated by commercial or any other interests. Beauty that speaks about individuality, courage to be yourself, and your very own sensibility. That’s my definition of a woman today. That is the goal of the calendar, to show that woman and not the stretched and manipulated [woman often shown in the media].”
The resulting photographs — which are shot in black-and-white and count Alicia Vikander, Léa Seydoux, Rooney Mara, Julianne Moore, Uma Thurman, and Charlotte Rampling as subjects — expose freckles, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and stray hairs. (You know, the kinds of things usually "fixed" with makeup, in-office treatments, and Photoshop.) Like the women on whom the lens focuses, the images are as beautiful as they are complex.
They also serve as a much-needed reminder that aging doesn’t mean becoming "lesser than" — something that Helen Mirren both advocates and embodies. Who among us can’t use some of that badass Dame confidence? Luckily, she shared the following advice with us at the press conference: “My advice for young girls would be 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.”