Pirelli, the world’s fifth-largest tire manufacturer based in Italy is the power behind Bridgestone, Michelin, Goodyear, and Continental has acquired notoriety for their annual calendar which is set to see it’s 40th — 40th!!! — release this year. The calendar traditionally features nudes of world famous models and is reserved for an exclusive group of corporate
perverts clients. In the past Pirelli has partnered with the likes of Mario Testino, Terry Richardson and Karl Largerfeld, but this year they seem to have turned a new leaf, employing the one and only Steve McCurry.
You know Steve McCurry as the man responsible for arguably the most famous photograph in history, depicting Sharbat Gula, a teenage Afghan refugee with haunted green eyes. Unlike his Pirelli predecessors, McCurry has zero fashion background and has spent his career as a Gonzo photojournalist in war-torn countries. Naturally, many are likely to wonder why National Geographic’s worldliest photographer was selected to photographed 11 of fashion industry’s leading models. Frankly, McCurry himself seems to be in that very boat:
Well, I certainly didn’t think of myself as an obvious choice, I’m not a fashion photographer. But Pirelli said they wanted me to do it my way, in my style.
A single look at his final images easily explains it all. For the first time in calendar’s history, the models are not using nudity, instead McCurry captures the often lucratively less-than-dressed beauties fully clothed in Rio De Janeiro’s organic lushness. It’s all very much in his style: “I wanted the models to be part of the environment and have life swirling around them, to be integrated into the city,” says McCurry.
Each of the models selected for the shoot also promotes their own cause and charity. Petra Nemcova who lost her fiancé in 2004 tsunami in Thailand, currently runs the Happy Hearts Fund, dedicated to assisting child victims of natural disasters. While Kyleigh Kuhn, a UC Berkeley grad, is a founder of a campaign dedicated to the funding of schools for Afghan girls. McCurry definitely finds appreciation for that.
Spending time with the girls outside the shoot and finding out about their work and causes was for me maybe the best thing about doing the calendar. You’ve got this false stereotype of models who don’t have much to say… so to get to know them as real people was just fascinating and inspiring.
Pirelli clients maybe disappointed with the lack of skin, but few can look at McCurry shots and not swoon with wanderlust and we dare you to argue different. Check out select images at Pirelli’s home site.