PIRELLI’S 50 YEARS
By Elizabeth Patterson
The Pirelli calendar has grown so infamous, most people don’t even know that Pirelli is a tire brand. Known for its racy shots of nude women, the notorious calendar is celebrating 50 years of print by releasing a book. Published by Taschen, the volume will be a retrospective featuring all of the calendars (up to 2014) in their entirety, and highlighting some of the famed photos the calendar has been home to throughout the years.
The Pirelli calendar started in 1965 as a way to attract clients. It has since grown into a coveted object, heightened only by its release to a small base of special clientele. From its humble beginnings as a sexy girl-of-the-month periodical, it has evolved through the years. The 1984 re-launch after a 10-year hiatus signaled a turning of the page for the calendar, with the yearly publication gaining more ground as an art and fashion specialty. Tires were prominently featured at one point (it is a tire company after all), though that requirement has since been discarded. Some notable issues include the 1987 all-black issue, which featured only black models (including a young Naomi Campbell), the 2008 issue shot by Patrick Demarchelier in China featuring couture pieces from Dior, and the 2013 Brazil issue lensed by Steve McCurry, who, in addition to photographing models, also included lively shots of natives.
Some of the most famous women in the world have been shot for Pirelli, including Kate Moss, Monica Bellucci, Sophia Loren, Alek Wek, Gisele Bundchen and Helena Christensen. Men have also made a scant appearance in the calendar, like Tyson Beckford in 2005 and Baptiste Giabiconi in 2011.
In addition to pretty faces, the calendar also acts as a who’s who of legendary shutterbugs. Famed photographers who have shot for the publication include Herb Ritts, Sarah Moon, Joyce Tenneson, Hans Feurer, Nick Knight, Karl Lagerfeld and most recently, Steven Meisel. In some ways, shooting for the Pirelli calendar is the last badge a photographer can earn, ensuring their place in both history and culture.
If you’re still wondering whether it’s worth the money, this should change your mind: Beyond being a collector’s piece, the book also comes with a treat. Behind-the-scenes photos, previously unpublished images (some of which were considered too scandalous to print) and the entire unreleased 1963 calendar are all featured in the coffee-table book. “Pirelli – The Calendar: 50 Years and More” will be available in August 2015. Leave your clothing at the door.