Dreams carried into reality to bring relief to the hearts and minds of whose who leaf through them, as the world pitches between pandemic and war. 'Love Letters to the Muse' is the unofficial theme of the 2023 Pirelli calendar curated by Australian photographer Emma Summerton. The headliners are all models but also muses, photographed in the Pier59 studios in New York and in the Big Sky Studios in London, in images that also portray the talent, the vulnerability, the tenderness of their everyday lives.
They all have a story to tell. Emily Ratajkowski, author of the book MY Body who appears as 'The Writer'; Karlie Kloss, whose 'Kode With Klossy' scholarship program teaches young women the basics of programming, is 'Tech Savant'; Guinevere Van Seenus is 'The Photographer', Precious Lee 'The Storyteller', Lauren Wasser 'The Athlete' who runs very fast even without her legs, Bella Hadid 'The Sprite', Sasha Pivovarova, 'The Painter' who paints her walls , Ashley Graham 'The Activist' shining on the sofa like sculpted armor, Adut Akech 'The Dream Catcher', Lila Moss 'The Seer', Cara Delevingne 'The Performer', Adwoa Aboah 'The Queen', He Cong 'The Sage' and Kaya Wilkins 'The Musician' whose verses are inspired by a crow.
During the presentation of the 49th 'The Cal', you can meet them all in the rooms of the Bicocca degli Arcimboldi, the elegant villa that everyone calls 'Castello', where each portrait seeks to show the blue blood of beauty mixed with other hidden golds (and poisons). Like the golden prosthetic legs worn by Lauren Wasser, who lost part of both her lower limbs due to toxic shock syndrome caused by the staphylococcus aureus bacteria associated with the use of tampons. She's currently training for the Paralympics. “I'm not a hero, I represent resilience and resistance. I'm committed to ensuring that other people don’t suffer what I suffered, which unfortunately continues to happen even though we don't talk about it. I am the voice of those who are no longer here.”
Ashley Graham, one of the first plus-sized models and ambassador of the 'Body Positive' movement: “It's important for me to be in the calendar, it was on my dream list. It is important for my story because I'm here with my size, my pose, with everything I do in my life as an activist. Working with a female photographer is different from with a man because it makes you feel more at ease and the result is that you look sexier in the images.” Humorously, she says, “You think I look beautiful? I should think so! After two hours of makeup and hair styling anyone would look good!”
The headliners are all models but also muses, photographed in the Pier59 studios in New York and in the Big Sky Studios in London, in images that also portray the talent, the vulnerability, the tenderness of their everyday lives
Emma Summerton is the fifth woman photographer to curate The Cal. “I was looking for answers to the questions with which you open the calendar: “Who is the woman, who does she love, how does she love?” and I began to imagine these characters. I usually talk to the person before doing the shoot, but here I started with the characters and then made a pact with them, putting them at ease and with an open ear.”
Why a dream calendar at a time that demands confrontation with harsh realities? “What I wanted is to offer a platform for women to tell us who they are in a surreal, creative, dreamlike atmosphere right at this precise moment when we need a space to breathe. Through the dream, I want to communicate who they are and what they do, also looking at the choices made by women in Iran and others who are fighting. The paths these women are taking can be an inspiration for others and an opportunity for men to learn.”
Working with a female photographer is different from with a man because it makes you feel more at ease and the result is that you look sexier in the images
Summerton was inspired by artistic themes that she has always referred to, such as surrealism and magical realism, beauty and wilderness, her love of flowers and wild branches and the power of the animal kingdom. “I drew inspiration from painting, sculpture, poetry, writing, definitely movies, definitely music.”
Marco Tronchetti Provera explains why Pirelli chose Emma Summerton: “When we started thinking about the calendar, the pandemic was ending although we didn't know yet that a war would soon begin. We looked for someone who would give us a dreamlike vision of the world after the nightmare, while not detaching ourselves from reality. Summerton was the right photographer for our project, capable of imagining a bridge between metaverse, dream and reality and of achieving it with compassion and generosity. Some calendars are not the product of particular moments and emotions. This one is.”
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Behind the scenes of the 2023 Pirelli calendar shot by Emma Summerton
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