Each period of expansion is succeeded by a period of recession, with its consequences for the collective consciousness: in the 20th century, the Great War was followed by the roaring twenties, and those by the starker thirties; after the consumerist euphoria of the fifties came the much more socially aware sixties and seventies, but the eighties turned it all upside-down again with their cult to shallowness and plastic (plastic money, plastic clothes, canned music). It seems that well into the 21st century, after years of wild economic expansion, recession is pushing us towards more traditional values: after years of domination of El Bulli’s experimental cuisine we embrace far more traditional and rational approaches to cooking; restaurants and bars opt for warmer materials and shabby chic rather than cold and glittering design; and the trend goes on and on.
So much so that even the heads behind the Pirelli calendar, home of superficial portraits-of-women-as-the-most-beautiful-animals-in-the-world-but-nothing-else, have hired one of the most committed photojournalists around, Steve McCurry (it’s virtually impossible to never have seen his Afghan Girl portrait) to create their 2013’s calendar, with a result as much distanced to earlier editions as one could imagine. McCurry’s two requirements: only portraits of women involved with some humanitarian cause and with their clothes on.
In 2013’s calendar, models are still incredible beauties such as Petra Nemcova, Adriana Lima, Elisa Sednaoui and the like, but they’re not just bodies: from women-objects they have become women-subjects and thus are granted their voice to explain their commitment to the different causes they cooperate with. The typical calendar girl canon is subverted even more by showing pregnant women, older women…
Whether Pirelli’s strategy is using commitment to hide its ugly face (pneumatic manufacturing breeds pollution)in these times of recession and wider social and ecological awareness is not for a fashion and culture magazine to say; what we can say, though, is that this new age of Pirelli calendars started by McCurry is really welcome. Will they go for this approach again in 2014?