The 2016 Pirelli calendar shot by Annie Leibovitz will go down in history as a shift in cultural paradigm, media reports say, at least for one year. Gone are the scantily clad, skinny supermodels shot in provocative poses against the backdrop of Pirelli tires. The 50-year-old calendar, once only reserved for rich, powerful and elite men, is now getting a fresh look, celebrating real women in a new light for the calendar – smart, strong and successful.
Leibovitz is the only woman in Pirelli’s half-century history to shoot the prestigious calendar, apart from husband and wife photo team Inez and Vinoodh in 2007. Leibovitz has chosen 12 women for their various contributions to society, including popular comedian Amy Schumer who, along with tennis player Serena Williams, is posing with just her underwear on. Schumer has admitted to body image issues in the past but this photoshoot, showing her “real” woman’s body, is being celebrated the world over, with Schumer herself saying on her Instagram page: “Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman. Thank you Annie Leibovitz!”
Other women included in the calendar are: singer Patti Smith, artist Yoko Ono, film producer Kathleen Kennedy, director Ava DuVernay, actress and activist Yao Chen, investor and wife of George Lucas Mellody Hobson, author Fran Lebowitz, Agnes Gund and her granddaughter, artist Shirin Neshat, fashion blogger and actress Tavi Gevinson, and model Natalia Vodianova.
Leibovitz is no stranger to challenging the status quo, from her early days at Rolling Stone magazine, to being the official tour photographer for British band the Rolling Stones, to numerous Vanity Fair covers. Here are ten times when her photography pushed the envelope and challenged pop culture norms.
10. Caitlyn Jenner on cover of Vanity Fair
2015 will forever be remembered as the year when transgender went pop. Once the All-American golden boy of the 1976 Olympics and featured on the Wheaties cereal box, the athlete later became known as the dad in Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But behind that machismo image, Jenner wanted to be a woman. His high-profile transformation from Bruce to Caitlyn, including what went on behind-the-scenes, were captured by Annie Leibovitz. The photographer’s image of Caitlyn will be cemented in the minds of people for years to come.
9. Mick Jagger
Annie Leibovitz has said her greatest work with musicians was when she was the Rolling Stones’ official tour photographer. Mick Jagger offered her the illustrious job after her long stint at the Rolling Stone magazine. Having little travel under her belt, the young photographer jumped at the chance to tour with the superstar band. This photo of Jagger in a robe and a towel on his head in New York in 1975 was captured after a show. Jagger often poured water on himself onstage at the end of concerts back in the day.
8. Leonardo DiCaprio
The then teenage heartthrob in 1997, the subject of many a teenage girl’s fantasies and still the subject of long-held fanatical obsessions, Leonardo DiCaprio was on the verge of releasing Titanic when this photo of him was taken. Just two years before, in 1995, he cemented his way into girls’ hearts by playing Romeo in Baz Luhrmann’s modern-day interpretation of Shakespeare’s ill-fated love story. With the swan wrapped around DiCaprio’s neck, it calls to mind the dress that Bjork wore to the Oscars in 2001, once ridiculed as one of the worst dresses to hit the red carpet, it was recently celebrated at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
7. Keith Haring
The artist who was known for his graffiti-like prints with bold colors, strokes and images painted himself like one of his own pieces for this eye-catching photo taken by Leibovitz just months before he died of Aids in 1987. It was one of the photos featured in her book Annie Leibovitz at Work in 2008, a year that also saw a revival of Haring, as his art was featured during Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet tour. Haring was a democratic artist, saying art was for everyone and lending his skills to many New York buildings and even offering art at an affordable price to anyone.
6. Demi Moore
Demi Moore turned heads with this nude photo, in which she had a suit painted on her otherwise uncovered body (which we can’t show all of, unfortunately). It was August 1992, the year after she posed while pregnant, but more on that later. Perhaps it was a way to show off her return to svelte form, perhaps she wanted to donate her body to art, but whatever the reason, it is still one of Vanity Fair’s most talked-about covers.
5. Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie was photographed nude in a bathtub shot by Leibovitz in June 2005. She was then a single mother with adopted son Maddox, and promoting her new movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with Brad Pitt who was married to Jennifer Aniston. The photo shows the Oscar-winning actress lying forward in a bathtub with only her tattoos, nude skin and glimpse of her buttocks on show. Little did anyone know about the tabloid frenzy that would ensue just a few months later when Brad and Jen announced their divorce.
4. Whoopi Goldberg
The photograph was inspired by one of Whoopi’s standup routines, Leibovitz told NPR, where she said as a little black kid and wanted to whiten up her skin using bleach. Several gallons of milk were warmed before pouring it in the tub. Whoopi got in, stuck her tongue out at the camera and Leibovitz knew she had a winning photograph on her hands. The image remains as one of Goldberg’s most enduring and visually arresting to date.
3. Tom Ford’s Hollywood
Vanity Fair’s annual Hollywood cover was started in 1995, the year movies celebrated their 100th year anniversary. Since then, it’s become a snapshot of the year’s top movies and celebrities that are expected to make history at that year’s Academy Awards. Designer Tom Ford’s Hollywood cover featured A-list actresses Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson nude next to the fully clothed Ford. Rachel McAdams was due to take part in the photo but while on set, she changed her mind and ran away, saying she felt “uncomfortable” about taking it all off.
2. Pregnant Demi Moore
This stunning Vanity Fair cover for the August 1991 issue stopped people in the tracks. The then uber famous Demi Moore, is completely nude and holding her baby belly at seven months pregnant. Her defiant look, challenging cultural norms to dare people to tell her to cover up, adds to the drama of the image. Demi’s hand provocatively posed to cover her breasts framed the focal point of the photo on the baby bump. Before then, an image of a pregnant Hollywood celebrity was not captured in a photograph, and much less on the cover of a prominent magazine.
1. John Lennon and Yoko Ono
This visually arresting photo of a naked John Lennon wrapped around a fully-clothed Yoko Ono was taken hours before he was shot and killed in New York City on December 8, 1980. Leibovitz talked about the photoshoot to an audience at the Cannes Lions advertising conference earlier this year, saying because it was the Eighties, people were more cynical and PDAs were considered to be too sentimental. She said Rolling Stone magazine had sent her to shoot just Lennon but he insisted that Yoko be in the photo. Leibovitz wanted them both naked for the cover but at the last minute, the Japanese artist was shy about taking her clothes off. There was still some backlash against her as many blamed her for breaking up The Beatles. The starkness of the image, as well as the actions to take place later that day left a bittersweet taste for Lennon fans all around the world.