The 2019 Pirelli Calendar was a dream that started in 2015 for acclaimed photographer Albert Watson.
It was then that I first sat next to Watson, while admiring the beautiful Venetian Lagoon in the garden of Venissa on the island of Mazzorbo, and talked about his dream of conceiving and realizing a Pirelli Calendar. After a few hours spent with Watson, the story of the “magic” that he pulled out of his heart truly revealed the immense beauty of his images. It was a long conversation in which his history, poetry and talent showed me passions, desires, and dreams not yet achieved, including the “mystery” of never having realized a Pirelli Calendar. It was curious that in his expansive career, Watson had never made one, and in response to my question about his “absence” from such an important achievement, Watson confirmed this “strangeness,” adding that if they were to ask him, he would certainly accept and create something different than what he had done until then.
And so, three years later, we met on the night of December 5, 2018 at the Hangar Bicocca in Milan, to celebrate how that dream, the dream, that we had caressed together in 2015 in Venice, had become reality. The 2019 Pirelli Calendar, titled “Dreaming,” is a journey into the lives of women who are captured through the “still image” and show the very essence of their dreams. Compared to past editions of the Pirelli Calendar this is a “conceptual – afore than photographic – return to the very essence of photography,” in which the paradox of the photographer who has “dreamed” of making his own Pirelli Calendar, tells the very dreams of his protagonists showing their fragilities and desires, through a story that Albert himself is the scriptwriter and director.
“I would like people looking at the Calendar, to understand that my goal was to do pure photography, explore the women I was photographing and create a situation that would propose a positive vision of today’s women,” Watson says.
Through the protagonists and their “cinematic” representation, Watson tells the dreams and desires of millions of women engaged in their lives, who continue to “pursue dreams and passions.” This is certainly a more sophisticated way of portraying women in their purest beauty, choosing to feature a natural and almost insubstantial nudity, which only enhances the descriptive ideas of dreams and desires.
“Each of the four women has an individuality on her own; her own specific purpose in life and her own way of doing things. All of them are focused on their future. So, the underlying theme is ‘dreams,’ but the idea behind the whole project is the tale through four ‘little films,’” Watson adds.
The loneliness that model Gigi Hadid portrays, who lives in a glass tower and has Alexander Wang as her only friend and confidant; the passion for nature and solitude of Julia Garner, who plays a young photographer; the dance for Misty Copeland, who makes a living dancing in a club and who practices dancing to become an étoile with her boyfriend, played by Calvin Royal III; or the dream of success for Laetitia Casta, a painter who lives in a one-room studio with her boyfriend, an artist and dancer played by Sergei Polunin. These are the four stories told that offer a unique and positive outlook on women today.
The 40 color and black and white photographs shot in 16:9 format inspired by Watson’s great passion for cinema have radically shifted the attention from the characters to the stories themselves, making all the subjects formidable actors in a much more elaborate project. It’s as if for once celebrities with their popularity have lost something, to become interpreters of something bigger, in a cinematic representation of real life.
Watson took the stage at the gala for his Pirelli Calendar and began with this sentence: “I am the photographer of this calendar. If you liked the images I’m happy, if you didn’t like the photos I apologize for having taken them.” These words alone show his greatness and his sensitivity which make him one of the greatest masters of modern culture.
This article was edited for clarity. Read the original feature here.
All photos courtesy of Pirelli Calendar.