• Backstage Pirell

© Pirelli Calendar 2019: Albert Watson


It is “the” calendar, at least as famous as it is coveted: the Pirelli photo calendar, which is made every year (at quite the expense) by the tyre manufacturer of the same name. Since 1964, the Italian company has given away copies to exclusively selected friends and customers, and every year, well-known photographers offer their services in the name of enchanting erotic-artistic photography. And no wonder – the objects of desire in these pages are usually famous models at the very top of their game. From Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, Alessandra Ambrosio, Adriana Lima to Gisèle Bündchen, Natalia Vodianova, Alek Wek, Karolina Kurkova, Julia Stegner, the unmistakable Sophia Loren and more: women of beauty and grace, luminaries in all manner of genres, have stood in front of the lens for Pirelli. Big names such as Bruce Weber, Peter Lindbergh, Karl Lagerfeld, Herb Ritts, Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Nick Knight or Terry Richardson have been brought in to satisfy both their client and the recipients of the end product.

One thing is certain: there’s nothing more constant than change. The Pirelli calendar, too, has changed over time, as it follows the current trends in art and society. Whereas the focus used to be on the nude in and of itself, depicting the lady in all her femininity with a slight touch of the erotic, nowadays, the object is given more importance than the subject: the models are clothed and her abilities are brought into focus, no longer “just” her shapely body. More conservative fans of the calendar may not be quite as enthusiastic about the latest developments, but one of the most important qualities of art is that it confronts society and the new impulses that result from the world around it. To merely pin this onto emancipation and the still current #metoo debate would be too short-sighted. Art has many faces and tells many stories. As is the case with the current 2019 calendar, which comes out at the end of the year and is already eagerly awaited…


The name “Albert Watson” might only be familiar to hardcore connoisseurs of photography, but his pictures are in fact world-famous, captivating, and you’re sure to have come across them here or there. As one of the most iconic photographers of our time, not only does he have an excellent mastery of the interplay of light and shadow, but he is also particularly able to create an almost meditative mood by using frugal, uncomplicated elements and lighting that looks almost sublime. And all this, even though he has been blind in one eye since birth. To date, his portfolio has amassed more than 650 commercials, 250 Vogue covers, numerous music videos, fashion and portrait photos, and pictures of stars like Jack Nicholson, Mick Jagger, Marilyn Manson, Alfred Hitchcock and many more. Movie buffs will fondly recall the legendary Hollywood posters for films like Kill Bill and Memoirs of a Geisha. They are truly astonishing artworks. It is certainly no coincidence that Pirelli has chosen him this year. It almost seems like a statement – a promise to continue on the new, modern path and to thereby keep up with the times. In other words: away from pure nude shots and towards artistic images that emphasise personality. In a similar vein, our escort service draws ideas and fresh inspiration from the calendar every year at Christmas time. Watson’s predecessor Tim Walker, who orchestrated the calendar in 2018, sent a clear signal with the choice of his cast for “Alice in Black Wonderland”. He exclusively chose black models and artists, such as fashion model Naomi Campbell, actress Whoopi Goldberg, models Slick Woods and Sasha Lane, Oscar winner Lupita N’yongo, drag queen RuPaul, rapper and producer Sean Combs aka P. Diddy… simply to pose the question: “Why can’t Alice also be black?” The year before, Peter Lindbergh was inspired by the idea of photographing the most important actors of our time. Dressed. Not nude. Pure – as you would expect from him.


This year the shoot took place in April between New York and Miami. Not much is known yet, except that the story revolves around four women who wish to realise all their dreams and goals. One of them has made it, but the question here is whether she is really happy with what she has achieved. Another new element is that each female protagonist has an accompanying male character. But who are the current stars or power couples of this year’s Pirelli calendar? Misty Copeland and Calvin Royal III make up the first dream team. They are both stars of the American Ballet Theatre, where Copeland is the company’s first African-American prima ballerina, setting a milestone for the African-American art world. In the photo series, she plays a dancer who works in a strip club and just about gets by in life, living with her boyfriend in a small art deco house. Both share a dream of someday being a star and performing on the world’s stages… The second “perfect couple” comes in the form of star model Laetitia Casta and ballet’s enfant terrible, Sergei Polunin. She plays an artist in a bustling city, always painting images of her future in her mind’s eye. In the pictures, her male counterpart stays true to his genre, doing what he does best: dancing. They both dream of making it big. All good things come in threes, of course: Julia Garner, an American actress who has starred in series such as Girls and The Americans, plays a photographer who takes pictures of rare plants in a botanical garden, but harbours a very different dream: to become a portrait photographer. Swedish top model Astrid Eika is the second in this pairing, and wonderful eye candy for those with a penchant for cool, tall, slender blondes. Last, but not least… the fourth couple: made up of photo model and catwalk superstar Gigi Hadid and star designer Alexander Wang. She plays a successful career woman and he is her confidant. Superficially, she seems to have achieved everything, but she is plagued by a deep sadness. Only in the presence of her confidant, in her New York hideaway, does she feel at ease. This arrangement is another premiere: never before has a fashion designer been in front of the lens for the cult calendar, and Wang mastered his role perfectly. In addition to his own label, he was chief designer at Balenciaga until 2015, and he also had very successful cooperations with H&M and Adidas. In summary: a colourful and exclusive mélange that leaves you wanting more!


For anyone who already feels too politically correct after a mere scan through the above – let us allay your concerns. Even in these times of #metoo, the all-too-often misunderstood emancipation and overinterpretations of feminism, the world of eroticism continues to be colourful, and naturally, the current Pirelli calendar wouldn’t send its readers away without a certain sensuality. Even with Tim Walker, elements such as a “skirt hitched a little too high” create a sense of tension for the observer. In Lindbergh’s work, pure beauty is able to convey a subtle eroticism that is quite simply captivating. The ingredients are nothing more than a beautiful, radiant face, a flawless body and an air of elegance and class. We can guess at how it will be in Watson’s edition from the models he has chosen – and clearly, if you give him star dancers, star models and star designers, magic is going to happen. From 1 December, allow yourself to be mesmerised by our advent calendar, in which the ladies of our renowned escort service not only make a “bella figura”, but have just as much to offer as the Pirelli calendar models. The idea is in the planning stage and the participants are already more than in the mood! This year will be rather different again. Preparations are already under way, and we remain the only agency that takes on this rather costly enterprise, for one main reason: because we can!