The 2019 Pirelli Calendar “Dreaming” is a photographic tale of four women and their determination to achieve their goals, pursuing their own dreams in different ways. Legendary fashion photographer Albert Watson, who has shot over 100 Vogue covers, created characters to show that success is no longer defined by societal standards. The photographs are in the cinematic 16:9 format, and look like film stills.
The Pirelli Calendar debuted in 1964 as a pin-up calendar to promote the Italian tire company. The calendar was often controversial; included nudity, and prided itself in presenting provocative images. In 2016, comic Amy Schumer posed unapologetically naked with a coffee cup. This year the theme is female empowerment, in the form of women’s aspirations and dreams.
“To make a dream come true, you have to work hard,” says Watson. “I’ve always taken it step by step, reaching one goal at a time, without wanting to get immediately to the top of the ladder. Even though I sometimes think this ladder could go on up forever, with the top rung ever-further away, I think it’s always worth giving yourself increasingly ambitious goals and dreams.”
Each of the four women focuses on the future and “has her own individuality, her own particular purpose in life, and her own way of doing things. So the underlying theme is that of ‘dreams’, but the basic idea behind the whole project is that of telling a story in four ‘little movies’. What I wanted to convey were the protagonists’ hopes and their way of thinking about the future, in a way that would bring with it the aspect of dreaming”, says Watson.
“An example of this is the character played by Gigi Hadid”, he explains. “She has recently separated from her partner, lives alone in a glass tower and has Alexander Wang as her only friend and confidant: “I think there’s a degree of angst in these images. With Hadid’s character, I wanted to convey the sense of a woman thinking about her future, but also showing her in a situation of loneliness. We see her thinking about where she is going to go in life, what she will be doing tomorrow. I wanted it to be much more minimalistic than the other women and settings I photographed.”
Misty Copeland, whose partner in the Calendar is Calvin Royal III, also looks to the future, fantasising about making a name for herself in the world of dance. “Trying to be successful is her driving force,” says Watson. “Copeland’s character earns her living by dancing in a club, but at the same time she has also put up a little stage in her garden, where she practices dancing in order to become a star, sometimes with her boyfriend, played by Calvin Royal III.” In real life, Copeland was the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the 75 year-old history The American Ballet Theater. And speaking of goals: her muscular legs are dreamy!
Lastly, Laetitia Casta is a painter who lives in a studio apartment with her partner, played by Sergei Polunin. They both dream of success: she as an artist, he as a dancer. “What’s interesting”, says Watson, “is that, in real life, Laetitia really does sculpt and create artwork in her spare time. This worked out very well and helped her get into character.”
“I wanted people looking at the Calendar to see that my aim was photography in its purest form,”said Watson, “exploring the women I was photographing and creating a situation that would convey a positive vision of women today.”
All Albert Watson photos published with permission from Pirelli.