How to great use cardigans
In one image, Nicole Kidman gazes soulfully into the lens, her pale eyes smudged with eyeshadow. In another, Kate Winslet sits at a table, leaning into her cupped hand, a dark cardigan around her shoulders. And in a third, we see Uma Thurman laughing as her hair is teased into place, a chunky rib-knit roll-neck framing her jaw.
It could be a series of candid studies taken for Vanity Fair, or an expensive advertising campaign created to appeal to an aspirational fortysomething woman like me. But it’s none of the above. This, somewhat curiously, is the latest incarnation of the Pirelli calendar, annually produced by a tyre company and which also includes Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore and Lupita Nyong’o among its roll call of subjects.
It marks a change in direction for the calendar which historically has used provocative images. What’s more, it follows last year’s U-turn which was heavy on jokes and again, a roster of women who were more diverse than ever before, which suggests this new direction might be here for good. Both are in stark contrast to previous Pirelli calendars where nudity was the norm, and an acceptable form of soft porn has been celebrated in various guises by acclaimed image-makers such as Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts, Norman Parkinson and Terry Richardson and Mario Testino. This year, 53 years after it first launched, we have Peter Lindbergh championing a very different form of sexuality.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve become so inured to the incessant parade of celebrities in a public state of déshabillé, that I’d barely bat an eyelid if someone walked down the red carpet stark naked. In a refreshing take on the beauty of the female form, Lindbergh has instead elected to photograph some of the world’s most respected female actors, mostly fully-clothed. Last year there seemed to be more nudity and the result this year looks set to be equally sexy in a glorious, grown-up way.
“The idea of beauty today is a bloody mess. It’s really awful,” explains Lindbergh, whose name is attached to the prestigious project for the third time. “For the calendar I shot in 2002, I photographed naked models and I thought it was really boring. Talent is more important than nice body parts.”
It wasn’t so long ago (if you’re of a certain age, like me, 1994 still feels relatively recent) that Elizabeth Hurley shocked us all in a Versace dress held together with safety pins, revealing a risqué glimpse of fleshy bosom. Yet at times, even in a supposedly more advanced society, we are witness an abundance of nudity, on and off the red carpet, sometimes to such an extent that it makes headlines.
Lindbergh has also made a welcome stand against the current obsession with heavily retouched imagery, and says the “idea of the calendar is to show what real beauty comes from and not what people impose on you to believe is beautiful”.
His subjects are largely women beyond their youthful best but all possessing a certain, knowing allure that feels intelligent and attractive. There’s the odd shoulder on show, and a bare leg or two, but the focus of this Pirelli portfolio is simply a portrait of womanhood.
There’s nothing illicit or improper about baring all these days: naked bodies are two a penny. The allure of a stolen glimpse of nude flesh has long gone. Quite frankly, getting your kit off is no longer sexy, and Pirelli just made me want to buy their tyres.