Pirelli Calendar (This post contains nudity)
[ RIO DE JANEIRO]
Every year the Pirelli Calendar combines
offers one photographer the chance to
showcase their distinct style. The muses
are some of the worlds top models who
spend most of their time artfully cover up
their most intimate areas. This year
Magnum & National Geographic
photographer, Steve McCurry decided to
let the girls keep their clothes on.
Outside of the Zone
Steve McCurry’s photography is famous for being in color. He was one of the photographers that gave color photography is credit as a legitimate form of image making beyond war reportage. His images of Nepalese monks and Afghan nomads have inspired hoards of photographers to hit the road with a camera, in the hopes of finding their own Afghan-girl.
Steve is no stranger to posed portraits. Many of his images are not as candid as they may seem. While some of his most compelling scenes were “found” and not created, he developed a distinct portrait style for his unusual subjects.
This year the Pirelli Calendar offered the veteran photographer the opportunity to work with some of the top models in the world. The normal approach to the Pirelli calendar is as follows:
1) Take some of the highest paid (and debatably most beautiful) women in the world…
2) Head to a themed location (anywhere from the rainforest to the streets of Rio, like they did this year…)
3) Strip them completely naked…
4) And have one photographer make a showcase of beauty, sexuality, or perversion depending on their preferences.
To give you a sense of range that each year features, let us consider some of the notable Pirelli Calendar photographers and some of their pictures:
(2012) Mario Sorrenti
(2011) Karl Lagerfeld
(2010) Terry Richardson
(2009) Peter Beard
(2008) Patrick Demarchelier
(2007) Inez Van Lamsweerde + Vindooh Matadin
(2006) Mert Alas + Marcus Piggot
(2005) Patrick Demarchelier
(2004) Nick Night
(2003) Bruce Weber
(2002) Peter Lindbergh
(2001) Mario Testino
(2000) Annie Leibovitz
If the names above are unfamiliar to you, do not worry, none of them would really be considered Steve McCurry’s colleagues. They are all, for the most part, fashion photographers. They work in a mixture of color and black + white and small, medium and large format. Though most of them live in medium format. Even if you do not like fashion photography, most of the names above are worth knowing. Their skills lie in working with people, making a subject feel comfortable, and negotiating astronomical day rates (+ $50,000 a day). Not bad for a bit of shutting clicking.
I am not sure how Steve was selected for the calendar this year, but however the idea came about it will be in interesting exercise to witness. Pirelli changed is policy from featuring mostly nude models to banning everything short of a dress. Here is another writers reaction to the non-nude marketing approach.
From the preview pictures its difficult to tell if he will pull off the shoot. Just because someone is a good photographer in one arena, like reportage, does not mean they will be good in another arena, like working on a fashion set.
The reason I want to point this out to photographers is three fold:
1) WE CAN’T BE GOOD AT EVERYTHING. French painter Eugene Delacroix once said “The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.” Making a leap from travel to fashion would be an enormous challenge for any photographer. Get good at one thing before you move on to something else. If you find yourself working on landscapes, architecture, street, portraits, travel, documentary, fashion, and nudes all at the same time, stop. Pick one, get good at it first. Then move on to the next arena.
2) JUST BECAUSE WE ARE GOOD AT ONE THING… Many photographers beat themselves up for no reason. I see this especially with young photographers who do not want to say no to new work. As an example they may be working in editorial fashion, but someone offers them work photographing automobiles. The trouble is that they are not set up equipment wise for the switch and further more their heads are in fashion. This can be a dangerous exercise because it CAN make you more versatile, but it CAN also be a huge disappointment. Each photographic field requires its own set of expertise. There are overlaps, but it can be tricky. When you consider that McCurry is probably one of the top of the world in cultural/travel work, it will be interesting how he does in the fashion world. ( I say fashion because Pirelli is essentially a fashion assignment with nude models)
3) EVEN PROFESSIONALS STRUGGLE. There is a persistent myth that professionals shake good projects out of their sleeves. Most really successful pros go through very rocky periods in their careers. Looking back at a 40 year retrospective of Peter Lindbergh might give the impression that it was smooth sailing the entire way through, but this is the furthest thing from reality. They get bored, frustrated, angry, and lost. There are transitions that all of us go through. It can be a huge help to understand that you are not working alone. Many people have the same doubts, concerns and difficulties as you too. I use a handful of fellow artists and former teachers as a sounding board whenever I get into meltdown mode. It can be an enormous boost of energy.
The newest issue of Vanity Fair Italia will have the 2012 Pirelli Calendar layout by Steve McCurry. Check for it online or at newsstands. Let me know if you think he pulled off a successful shoot.