Since it's launch in 1964 the Pirelli calendar is one of the most desired items of the new year. Each year a celebrated photographer is hired to shoot the world's most beautiful bodies stripped naked in some of the world's most gorgeous locations. This year famed photographer Steve McCurry earned the honor of the shoot, Rio the exotic location, but as Refinery29.com put it "the only kind of melons you can expect are the fruit ones." Read on to learn about their big change, see some of the images and watch a detailed behind the scenes video.
The Pirelli calendar is famous each year for it's limited availability, only handed out to important Pirelli customers and celebrity VIP's. Generally the calendar is full of artistic nude photographs and has become a mark of distinction for the models featured in it as well as the photographers commissioned to do the shoots. This year however, photographer Steve McCurry (of the famed Afghan Girl photograph) proposed to go a different direction with the calendar.
In the two weeks it took to shoot the Calendar on the streets and in the favelas of Rio, McCurry made one of his fascinating journeys of discovery, capturing stories, experiences and traits of people and faraway lands. The 2013 Pirelli Calendar tells its tales through faces drawn in graffiti and ordinary people, as well as through this year's models whose common thread is a powerful commitment to foundations, humanitarian projects and on-governmental organizations.
"I tried to portray Brazil, its landscape, its economy and its culture, along with the human element" said McCurry. "This was the story I wanted to tell through my lens. For me photography is an important expressive means to tell large and small stories of daily life." In the background, Rio is bustling with life, with its historic quarters like Lapa and Santa Teresa, its favelas, its bars and nightclubs, its markets, dance centers and gyms, its schools and bus stops. The city appears at its most authentic, very different from the usual stereotypes. "I walked a lot through the streets, looking at all these moments of daily life and taking lots and lots of pictures," said McCurry. "I look for the moment of passage, when the image reveals a bit of tension."
McCurry, armed with his years of experience as a traveler and guided by innate curiosity, entered into the spirit of Rio and opened himself to its people, offering up faces and moods. The Calendar alternates portraits of models and actresses with pictures of ordinary people: a young boxer working out, a fruit seller at the market, samba dancers, capoeira masters practicing their art, a woman jogging, an art teacher, a tourist at a museum, a secretary looking out a window, lovers walking together at sunset. These scenes of ordinary and not so ordinary life recount the evolution of a nation that is changing without losing its true nature and the traits that make it unique.
"I would say I am a street photographer doing [found situations]. You can photograph nudes anywhere. But these models are clothed, and each of them has her own charity. They are purposeful and idealistic people. So I wanted to photograph them in a special place, and Rio was perfect for this," McCurry adds.
There are 34 colorful images in the 2013 Pirelli Calendar, bound together in a calendar-book: 23 portraits of actresses and models, nine images depicting bits and pieces of daily life, and two pictures entirely composed of graffiti and murals. These are an evocation of popular artistic expression that attracted McCurry's attention with their ability to reflect the social aspects he was interpreting, and became the background in many photographs.
"Being selected to shoot the 2013 Pirelli Calendar was a great honour, the beauty of Rio made it the perfect backdrop. Known for its soul, energy and remarkable socioUeconomic transformation, Brazil is a country which has taken her place among the fastest growing and most vibrant countries on earth. Rio's varied landscapes of ocean, mountains and jungle, combined with a dynamic urban culture, made it a wonderful location to shoot the people whose faces you will see in these pages. Rio's people are every bit as amazing as the spectacular landscapes. I was inspired by their hospitality, warmth and generosity. I wanted to photograph a mix of everyday people combined with a very special group of women known not only for their talent and beauty, but also for their charitable work and contributions to their communities. I also enjoyed photographing wall art all over the world, the spirit of Rio came alive through the images and words on the walls. Wall art, popularly known as graffiti, comes from an ancient tradition going back Millennia. The collection in this calendar is my personal tribute to the people who live in one of the most exciting cities I have had the privilege to photograph." - Steve McCurry
A couple things I noticed while watching the video. I found it interesting that McCurry shoots with the Nikon D3X, Hasselblad 200 series body and it appeared that around 18:37 in the movie I caught a glimpse of him using a Canon 1D-X with a 24-70 lens. It also appears that rather than using strobes he prefers to reflect light or in most situations use LED panels such as those made by LitePanels as well as shoot using a tripod and slow shutters to capture as much ambient light as possible.
So what are your thoughts on the new look of the Pirelli Calendar this year? I would love to read your comments below. Personally, I feel like it was a bold but well played move by McCurry to shake things up, garner the attention of news media and focus on doing what he does best which is capturing memorable portraits full of life, detail and story. I am also grateful to see the photos processed cleanly with rich saturated colors different from the latest fashion craze of using washed out grainy images. I applaud McCurry for doing what he does best and Pirelli for providing a powerful platform to allow the models to share the humanitarian causes that mean so much to them.
All photos by Steve McCurry / Courtesy of Pirelli