— RossanaVanoni.com (@rossanavanoni) December 1, 2015
Pirelli, tire manufacturer of the stars, has for decades published a collectible calendar as a sort of high-art response to the semi-pornographic images that adorn many mechanics’ walls. Starting in 1964, photographers with hefty résumés — Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz — have gotten in on this action, offering a gauzy twist to a platform that, in lesser hands, can get quite lurid.
Now, Leibovitz is back with a twist on the twist. The famed portraitist has offered a provocative calendar for 2016 that includes memorable images of comedian Amy Schumer and tennis great Serena Williams in the near-buff — not to mention photos of the considerably more clothed Yoko Ono, Patti Smith and writer Fran Lebowitz.
“When Pirelli contacted me, they told me they wanted to follow a different path from the past,” Leibovitz said, according to a company news release. “They suggested the idea of photographing women who have distinguished themselves in some way. We agreed on that, and the next goal was to be very direct. I wanted the photographs to show women exactly as they are, without artifice.”
Schumer shared her image on social media.
“Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman,” she wrote. “Thank you.”
— Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) November 30, 2015
In a promo for the calendar, Schumer added: “I felt I looked more beautiful than I’ve ever looked in my life. And I felt that it looked like me.”
“I’m a big fan of comic actresses,” Leibovitz said. “The portrait of Amy Schumer added a bit of humor. It’s as if she never got the note saying there was no need to undress.”
Behind the scenes at the Pirelli shoot.
Coming not long after Playboy’s announcement in October that it would no longer feature nude women, the Pirelli calendar seemed to show — at least in some rarefied media circles — a weariness with the unclothed human form. Author Lebowitz explained the trend at the launch: “Perhaps clothed women are going to have a moment,” she said, as Vogue reported.
“That battle has been fought and won,” Playboy chief executive Scott Flanders said when the magazine announced the change. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”
“As an editorial decision, it just makes sense because there’s really nothing you could show people of a certain generation that would shock them at this point,” Tavi Gevinson, founder of online magazine Rookie and another Pirelli subject, told W. “I feel pretty desensitized and I can’t imagine a young person finding Playboy in their parents’ closet and being shocked. … For Pirelli, I think it’s great to celebrate all kinds of women for the different things that they’re doing. There calendars have always been beautiful and not the kind of thing that kids my age are desensitized to.”