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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Buzuk's picture

I never wanted Pirelli Calendar on my wall but this one is a different story and I would hang it proudly :) Awesome photos.

Nicholas's picture

Incredible video. I love how different the BTS video is, so simply and effectively told. The photography is superb by the legendary McCurry. It is wonderful how not only the images tell a story but the models themselves have stories to tell as well, bringing a depth and richness to the work that makes them even more beautiful than they already are.

Would've been funny to see McCurry photographing nude models :) Awesome how they went a totally different way with this, change is good m'kay. I can imagine there's going to be some sad faces when people unpack the newly delivered calendar though :)
Also, with the beauty in the face of a girl like the one standing in the doorway, who needs nude models...
Interesting to see Steve using continuous lighting BTW.

heybrooke's picture

Wow. I am so inspired by some of the juxtapositions that he played with here. Great work. I'm glad he went for a different direction for this shoot.

Did he seriously take a medium format camera (Hasselblad I'm guessing?) into the favelas at night? :)

Brian Worley's picture

McCurry has managed to move the Pirelli calendar a real step forward with this… stunning 

Would be extremely interesting to see if they'll keep up this trend, how awesome would be it be if the Pirelli calendar turned into a premium photography showcase. Anyone for Anton Corbijn next year?

Michael Turcotte's picture

A different direction, yes. Would have expected nothing less of McCurry and Pirelli. But "a real step forward"? So it was just porn for special people before this?

Marco Fiorini's picture

So ispirational, amazing video. Thanks for posting that.

Amazing work, but that is what Pirelli expects for the calendar whether they are shooting nudes or not. Also amazing work because that is what is sought after by Mr. McCurry.

Taffy Johnson's picture

Is it just me?, seems like the post work ruined what Mr.McCurry had in vision. Over use of HDR and Liquify tool [last photograph]. nevertheless its always exciting to see a Master at work. 

Bevan Goldswain's picture

Couldn't agree with you more. I think Pirelli had something to do with this. 

Agreed. I think maybe an over-enthousiastic retoucher was trying to recreate the look of McCurry's film photos, but overdid it.

Jacques's picture

I wonder why he is using his left hand for the shutter release?  Always resting it across the camera to the right.

J Hohertz's picture

He broke his right arm when he was a child, and it has limited mobility.

anise's picture

I feel like the HDR post slightly lessened the value of his work. 

johnbp123's picture

Beautiful photos but I agree with Taffy about the post work. But I do love the look of this calendar.

Andrew Ngai's picture

Does anyone know the type of LED panels he uses for this shoot? The lighting is subtle and awe inspiring. 

Jacques's picture

 Perhaps a Manfrotto Maxima?

Jacques's picture

From a business point of view, I wonder if Pirelli is not alienating that current calendar client base due to them changing direction and 'betraying' their clients' loyalty.

The same that what happened with GAP when they changed their logo; that was an expensive lesson for them.

Richie Velasquez's picture

I liked the old calendars. WAY Much more than this. Not to put down his work, but its not suposed to be a fashion style calendar. Its suposed to be hot babes in some tropical island...that was great. If I wanted a calendar with an artistic approach, I'd get a Vogue or W calendar...
Again, not putting this down. Loved the shots. 

Not that cameras make the image... but what prototype body is using the canon lens at marker 17:30  .   It looks like Steve was shooting with every maker under the sun.

Marco Fiorini's picture

There are a lot of saturation, but not much more than the old McCurry's film photos. IMO.
Don't you think that maybe our eyes are used to the tons of fake vintage-instagrammed shots over there?
If you look at the "amazing/awesome/gorgeous photography by...." they all look the same. 90% of that shots could be taken by the same guy and nobody would see the difference.
I do love those blog post and that photography, I'm not even that good to judge anybody, but I'm glad to see some saturation and color coming back. And McCurry is a master. 

Big up for the "If you look at the "amazing/awesome/gorgeous photography by...." they all look the same. "...I was just thinking about that today...all these images are totally interchangeable, and you had me grinning with the title thing :)

John MacLean's picture

Bravo - Awesome fresh work and I don't mind the rich saturated images. I think it adds to the vibrant environment and gives "pop" for the calendar usage.

Nikola Borissov's picture

Artistic merits of the photographs aside (highly subjective, personally I don't like them at all), the post production is just horrible, and that's very objective.Not level of horrible, but absolutely unacceptable in a production of that level.
Also, whoever did the sound editing didn't know the difference between the Hassy and the Nikon's shutter sounds and just randomly slapped them wherever :)

John MacLean's picture

I'm sure the final look of the images came down to the Pirelli Creative Director, not Steve, although he probably had his input considered.

Christopher Hoffmann's picture

McCurry is simply a class act with a crapload of talent!

Paulo Marx's picture

"“I tried to portray Brazil, its landscape, its economy and its culture, along with the human element” said McCurry." Definitely not!! This kind of statement goes against the truth. The Brazil is the eighth largest economy in the world and should not be portrayed that way. The Mr. Mc Curry, it was a good photographic reporter, not tell lies!

harry's picture

 What in the heck are you trying to say?!

When I think of Brazil I think of it this way...for it's economic size, it's damn near the top of the homicide capital of the world. 

To me, McCurry shows the dirt and the beauty of this city...doesn't look like any lies to me??

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