For Pirelli's latest calendar, the Italian tire company enlisted photographer Albert Watson to work his magic. The iconic calendar, in which nearly every major photographer has taken part, has evolved over the years. It's gone from racy, to fantastical, to radically inclusive, and now, cinematic. Watson's interpretation may be 2-D, but it's so complex — like a film, he'd say — that it really will take a year to get through.
Dubbed "Dreaming," the Scottish photographer's exploration of the changing nature of ambition and success is told through female and male protagonists like models Gigi Hadid and Laetitia Casta, ballet dancers Misty Copeland and Sergei Poullunin, designer Alexander Wang, actress Julia Garner, and more. The calendar, which took ten days to shoot and tells not one but four tales, sees Watson's obsession with details and a focus on goals — those achieved and unachieved. There's a dancer, a botanical photographer, a painter, and an heiress, all as imagined by Watson himself.
"To make a dream come true, you have to work hard," Watson explains via press release. "I’ve always taken it step by step, reaching one goal at a time, without wanting to get immediately to the top of the ladder. Even though I sometimes think this ladder could go on up forever, with the top rung ever-further away, I think it’s always worth giving yourself increasingly ambitious goals and dreams."
It's a broad concept, but it allowed Watson to experiment, just as past Pirelli photographers did. But unlike the calendars before it, he sought to break the 12-month cycle. Instead of taking one photo of each month, he took 40. And he shot them in 16:9, a widescreen format, so they appeared more as stills from a movie and less of a fashion shoot: "The basic idea behind the whole project is that of telling a story in four ‘little movies’. What I wanted to convey were the protagonists’ hopes and their way of thinking about the future, in a way that would bring with it the aspect of dreaming." The cinematic approach makes perfect sense: Though he's one of the world's most renowned photographers today, Watson actually graduated from the Royal College of Art Film School as a director.
For more than 50 years, the Pirelli calendar has served as a milestone for both a photographer and a model's careers. Last year's calendar featured an all-Black cast shot by Tim Walker, and a few years before that, photographer Annie Leibovitz featured little to no nudity of its subjects at all. During one of fashion's most politically charged eras, Albert Watson's cinematic approach provides a break from the noise and a stoic look inside the lives of others. Click through the slideshow ahead to see some of the shots.