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First look at Annie Leibovitz's empowering and beautiful 2016 Pirelli Calendar

Pirelli Calendar 2016 - December - AMY SCHUMER.jpg

Is a seismic shift in the way society views women, taking place beneath our feet? This year alone, Playboy decided to bid adieu to its naked centrefolds and FHM has suspended publication.

Now, the Pirelli calendar, which most of us attribute to an outdated objectification of women - where each month of the year celebrated the unattainable perfection of a female body - has also decided to cover up.

“I was surprised when I heard about it, I thought it was a joke!” says writer, Fran Lebowitz, who appears as Pirelli’s May image, “perhaps clothed women are having a moment.”

And indeed they are.

This afternoon, the long-awaited 2016 Pirelli calendar shoot by iconic photographer, Annie Leibovitz was unveiled by broadcaster, Clare Balding, to a packed-out Grosvenor Hotel Ballroom on London’s Park Lane.

Including such names as Patti Smith, Yoko Ono and Serena Williams, the new photos are a real departure from traditional Pirelli fare. 

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Yao Chen wrote the calendar's foreword

The shift from shooting models to inspirational women, is a huge statement for the brand - especially when you consider that last year’s theme for the collector’s calendar was ‘fetish’.

This year’s edition – the company’s 43rd – features 13 women of ‘outstanding professional, social, cultural, sporting and artistic accomplishment.’

Alongside those mentioned above, the impressive list of women starring in the calendar includes: Russian model and charity founder, Natalia Vodianova, blogger-turned-actor Tavi Gevinson, comedian Amy Scuhmer, actor Yao Chen, producer Kathleen Kennedy and art collector Agnes Gund (who posed alongside her granddaughter, Sadie Rain Hope-Gund).

Leibovitz’s powerful and candid black and white photographs, shot in her New York studio in May last year, present the women- all of different ages and from differing backgrounds – in an inspiring light, described today by Pirelli CEO, Marco Tronchetti Provera, as “a calendar based on the equality of women all around the world.”

PIRELLI

Serena Williams for April

“I was very moved by her [Leibovitz’s] vision of the calendar,” says Vodianova. “Society is moving towards embracing all kinds of women and empowering them further to do more, to say more, to be stronger, and I’m very happy for Pirelli calendar that its going in that same direction.”

In a film, debuted at the launch, the calendar’s subjects opened up about how they felt being photographed for such a project.

“Annie shot something of me that not only do I like, I love,” says Serena Williams, who Leibovitz later described as having a ‘hard time’ during the shoot. William’s image sees her strike a powerful pose in one of only two nudes featured in the calendar.

“The calendar says that women have strengths that are far beyond what they’ve been credited with,” adds Agynes Gund.

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Patti Smith for November

During the shoot, blogger and founder of Rookie magazine, Tavi Gevinson decided to cut off her hair – and describes it as a pivotal life moment.

Even Leibovitz, who has photographed many of the world's most accomplished people, found the experience humbling, saying:

“I was more empowered with every photograph we took.”

Although the calendar was aimed at rejecting Pirelli’s tradition of depicting nude women, there was one photograph – for December- which decided to pay homage to the brand’s past.

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Amy Schumer for December

Comedian, Amy Schumer, posed nude for the final month, as a joke that she ‘forgot the memo’ about keeping clothes on.

“I’m 34 and everything is about to drop, so let’s get a shot of it while it’s still up there,” says Schumer.

Little did she know the light-hearted photograph would move her, too:

“I felt I looked more beautiful than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. And I thought it looked like me."

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