Almost 50 years have passed since Pirelli started selling calendars. Since then, everything has changed, but much remains the same: the expectation around the release, the interest in its photographer, the curiosity about its models. But instead of greasy auto shops, the models’ images now appear on social media. This year, it features photos of some of the world’s top models, shot by the Australian photographer Emma Summerton.
The 2023 calendar includes images of Cara Delevingne, Emily Ratajkowski, Ashley Graham, Bella Hadid, Karlie Kloss, Adut Akech, Lila Moss, Adwoa Aboah, Lauren Wasser, He Cong, Precious Lee, Sasha Pivovarova, Guinevere van Seenus and Kaya Wilkins. Summerton has titled it Love Letters to the Muse. The concept of next year’s calendar is those same muses, “imaginary and archetypal characters that inspired the photographer throughout her life,” said Pirelli, the Italian tyre company. The figures featured range from Summerton’s mother to “singers, actresses, artists, activists, painters and many other women.”
The photographs of almanac number 49 – which will be officially presented in November – were shot over three days in London in June and one in New York in July. The photographer had received the commission months before. “It was amazing when it happened. It was like some kind of magic spell finally worked,” she explains in a statement released by Pirelli. Some 39 photographers have produced their own versions of the yearly calendar, but only four of them have been women. Summerton is the fifth after Sarah Moon (in 1972, a pioneer who decided to put an end to the era of pinups), Joyce Tenenson (1989), Inez van Lamsweerde (2007, together with Vinoodh Matadin) and Annie Lebovitz (first in 2000 and then in 2016).
Summerton is a creative photographer who gives free rein to her imagination. When she received the request from Pirelli, she began to ruminate about her own ideals of a woman, hoping to inspire viewers to enter into her own dream world.
Summerton’s imagination is what drew Pirelli president Marco Tronchetti Provera to her work. “We live in a time where the real and the unreal come together with enormous frequency, so she seemed to me the perfect artist to interpret it, and at the same time make a contribution to the heritage of the Pirelli calendar,” he said. That heritage includes names such as Peter Lindbergh (in 2017), Richard Avedon, Paolo Roversi (who in 2020 portrayed Rosalía and Emma Watson as Juliet), Patrick Demarchelier, Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Steve McCurry and Tim Walker. Last year, the chosen one was Bryan Adams, who wanted to pay tribute to music, affected by the stoppage of the pandemic.
But beyond the name of the portraitist, those who end up monopolizing the headlines are the portrayed. All 14 are weighty names on the international scene, but for half of them, this marks their debut on the calendar. That is the case for Bella Hadid, whose sister Gigi already appeared in the 2015 and 2019 editions, and Emily Ratajkowski, 31, who has been working as a model since she was 14. Cara Delenvingne, who in 2019 was the highest paid model in the United Kingdom and who is now more focused on her career as an actress, and Ashley Graham, 34, also are appearing in the publication for the first time.
Karlie Kloss – now also a philanthropist and computer programmer – will be included in the calendar’s pages for the second time, just a decade after her 2013 debut, shot by Steve McCurry. It is also the second appearance for South Sudanese Adut Akech and for Sasha Pivavorova, after Patrick Demarchelier’s 2008.