New Pirelli 2013 Calendar Titillating in a Different Way

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 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


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They look like tourist snapshots. The one with the cat is particularly offensive. Total shit

just because a "name" photographer shoots a project doesn't make the images steve is a brilliant photographer, but this shoot really has nothing special about it
just hype !

harry's picture

 Wait a all are critizing the photos and the post work when we should focus on the photographers intent and mission in conducting the shoot?  What a bunch of short sighted individuals.

He got the job, he got his money and the client got something fresh and something new for the calendar while the models are getting additional exposure for their campaigns/charities because of the work specific to this calendar.

You're damn right that I'm criticizing the photos. The Pirelli calendar is one of the best jobs that a photographer can get. Anybody that shoots it can expect to get criticized especially if they do a crap job.

What makes you think that you can know a photographer's intent? Are you a mind-reader? Do you have some kind of special psychic power? No, you can't read minds and neither can anybody else. It's totally ludicrous to judge photographs by the intent behind them since nobody is privileged to that information but the photographer himself. Viewers can only make judgments based on the photographs themselves. Photographs should be able to stand on their own without recourse to additional commentary or gypsy mind-readers.

Any viewer can clearly see that the photos are filled with the tired hack cliches of railroad tracks in the background, misty windows in the foreground (oh how dreamy) and graffiti etc. C'mon, there is an army of teenage girls with digital cameras and flickr accounts ready at a moment's notice to produce the same thing. It's pure hack.  Also, pretty young women lurking in passageways and alleys at night look like prostitutes. It might be appropriate to take photos like that when documenting prostitutes in Thailand, but it sure as hell isn't the way to photograph top fashion models like Karlie Kloss.

Mbutu you seem to be quite the outspoken critic. You must have a thing or two to show us about being a better photographer. I would love for you to send me a link to your work and interview you for your own feature here on Fstoppers. You must be amazing at what you do! Holler back with your link. Let's do this.

I'm not quite sure what Mbutu's own skill has got to do with him critiqueing the work of other photographers. Somehow people here of Fstoppers often get blamed for being a lousy photographer themselves when they speak out about the work of others. What's up with that? So basically you can only critique the work of photographers that take inferior pictures to your own?

Bram I simply invited him to be featured here. 

Don't be inauthentic, you were patronizing because you didn't like what I had to say.

The offer still stands Mbutu. 

Dude just chill! Mr McCurry did this his way and there isn't a right and wrong way to photograph "top fashion models". Also you should respect the fact that these people (models and photographer) have done great humanitarian work so by even saying "they look like prostitutes" you are insulting them.   

McCurry made the models look like prostitutes, not me. You should be mad at him for insulting them.

Im not mad at him at all, I do like his work and the models he has photographed. 

I love Steve McCurry's work but I honestly enjoyed the more natural tones of the video footage compared to the oversaturated final pics. Nevertheless...classy move for Pirelli.

@ Trevor

Why are you changing the subject??? The topic is McCurry, not me. IF it were up to me, I would have shot the job and then you could have ripped me apart for not having enough graffiti and railroad tracks in the background LOL

He actually took a picture of a model alone in a bar? Do you really need somebody to explain how possibly lurid and astonishingly pedestrian that is??? That's the kind of thing that is only associated with Vegas callgirls or women that have been stood up by their dates. Why are the 2 men in the photo avoiding eye contact with the model when they should be drooling all over her? Is it because she's got AIDS or is really an Asian boy dressed in drag? If not, then why are they treating her that way?

Trevor, do you need photo production 101 explained to you? Shouldn't you know these things without being told? Photos relate messages. Photographers that cannot control these messages are incompetent regardless of whether or not they might have shot a famous picture in a previous century.

This calendar shoot is exactly the kind of fubar situation that happens when photojournalists shoot jobs that should go to commercial or fashion photographers. PJs are not accustomed to productions, so they frequently do not understand the social messages that they are creating. I don't criticize the parade of self-portrait flickr photographers and strobist wannabes that Fstoppers promotes because those folks aren't taking the best jobs. But when gigs like Pirelli calendar are shot with such incompetence then it is my duty to speak up. Professionals must deal with professional scrutiny!

BTW - Demarchelier already shot Pirelli in Rio before, why do it again?

I never changed a subject. I simply invited you to share a link to your work so we could feature it here. I actually thought I was being quite nice to give you the opportunity. There is a great quote by Theodore Roosevelt that I think you should read...

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Unfortunately, you're lying. You changed the subject from criticisms of McCurry's work to me. Don't sweat it though, I'm used to it because dilettantes don't like negative criticism so they often try to stop it with the shoot-the-messenger fallacy.

Take a look at the photo of the woman wearing the purple dress that is just below the picture of the 3 guys dancing. The woman is having an orgy of ecstasy, yet there is no readily apparent reason for this behavior. What is the purpose for her sudden explosive response? The photo by itself, or as part of a series, doesn't tell us.

If this were an isolated incident then it might not be a big deal. However, the entire series is filled with similar "references without referents." Photojournalists turned commercial photographers are notorious for this because they are accustomed to taking pictures instead of making them. Taking pictures (PJ) requires fast reflexes, but making pictures (commercial production) requires forward thinking and planning ahead. Unfortunately, the two don't mix well and become confusing to the viewer. Variety with structure is harmony, but diversity without cohesion is incomprehensibility.

Chomsky gives a linguistic example of what McCurry did with the phrase "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously."

The sentence is grammatically correct but nonsensical. This is the same problem that McCurry has because his technique (grammar) isn't the main issue. It's the ideas behind the individual photos and their connections between each other that make little if any sense at all.

About a month ago you said it best when you commented on an article. I quote you, "The internet is a ghetto where the "vulgar critique the pure."

talkin' 'bout me again?

That's a vague fashion reference to Haute Couture made in defense of Kanarek. Several of the critics in that thread were too common (aka vulgar) to be aware of the rarity (aka purity) of the subject matter in his photos.

I am in no position to criticize such a Master,however, this is very very interesting use of slow shutter speeds and continuous lighting. I cannot help but assume that if you put any professional world class photographers behind a super pro camera and shoot  hundreds of frames of each model (who are mostly making sexy faces at the camera) you would get similar results. However the mastery of the lighting and the choice of location and the ease and unassuming natural way in which Mr McCurry communicates with his subjects is something to learn from. I would really like to see the unedited images, the very heavy handed post precessing is a little overpowering though.

Charles's picture

Really great work.  Although, I agree that the final images were overdone/processed.  With such limited use of artificial light,  you would think the final images would be much more natural.  I also agree that it was more likely the Pirelli higher ups that forced that look.  Probably would have been nicer as nudes.  Not just for the sake of naked bodies, but it would have kept tradition and the Brazilian locations practically dictated that.  (On another note- He was shooting Nikon, Hasselblad AND a Canon? some point yeah?) 

When I show to my colleagues the video, the first comment was ...hmmm no boobs?!
After that we discuss that´s different, totally different compared to the previous ones. We were intrigued by the way he shot the pictures, using just natural light and some LED lights but at the same time disappointed by some of the pictures that seemed to get a high retouch process.
But no matter what, he´s still a master!

yes he use Nikon (D3x) and Canon (1Dx / 24-70mm 2.8 L) when is was dark and Hassy where there was lot of daylight

"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."

You mean like those stupid featured amateur photographers you guys are always putting on this site?

Ken Yee's picture

Karli! :-)

Excellent! totaly mesmerizing!

Excellent! totaly mesmerizing!

Carlos Quandt's picture

I think it is a refreshing change for Pirelli. Interesting to see singer Marisa Monte, age 45, as well as Sonia Braga, 62, as models. The locations are not really a portrait of Brazil; just some pretty decrepit parts of Rio, but it all comes together quite nicely in the hands of master McCurry.