Is Pirelli's 2017 calendar really a 'feminist statement'?

Uma Thurman has hailed Peter Lindbergh's images, but others argue the shots are not as natural as they seem

Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman shot by Peter Lindbergh for Pirelli
(Image credit: Peter Lindbergh/Pirelli )

Pirelli's 2017 calendar featuring un-retouched photographs of Hollywood's leading ladies is a "feminist statement", says actor Uma Thurman.

Entitled Emotional and shot by photographer Peter Lindbergh, the calendar was unveiled in Paris on Tuesday to widespread acclaim.

It has been known for its flawless nude images, usually of models, ever since its 1964 launch as promotional material for the Italian tyre company.

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Acclaimed photographer Annie Leibovitz tried to buck this trend for the 2016 calendar, shooting studio portraits of women such as Serena Williams and Amy Schumber who are renowned for their work in diverse fields.

But Lindbergh has striven for something different in next year's edition, which features more than a dozen actors with ages ranging from 28 to 71.

The calendar aims to show "real women" as they naturally are, without heavy make-up or retouching, says the photographer.

Thurman, who appears alongside the likes of Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman, Charlotte Rampling and Dame Helen Mirren, said: "This was such a sophisticated, supportive, feminist statement they made by taking this calendar and turning it into something that is about all generations of women in a completely non-exploitative manner and making it something that is fantastic."


So does it genuinely show older beauties as they really are? "Pull the other bingo wing," says Libby Purves at the Daily Mail.

Arms and legs are shot in monochrome, so are "never mottled or age-spotted", she says, and although the images are not retouched, Lindbergh shot around 30,000 images in total to get the "natural" look.

On top of that, the women are "slender, beautiful in the bones and accustomed to cameras and poses", says Purves.

"There can be no glimpse of the spreading thigh, the sagging front, the bingo wing, the jowls which, without surgery, generally move in the bull-mastiff direction. In women we love - mothers, grannies, favourite old teachers - these things, too, are beautiful," she concludes. "But they won't be shown on a calendar. Not ever."

Rachel Lubitz at Mic argues the women's faces do show lines, dimples and wrinkles, which is "refreshing" for a calendar that has "built a reputation on smooth and supple bodies", she adds.

But she points out there are no plus-size women in sight: "For this supposed celebration of real, raw, un-retouched, true beauty, Pirelli decided to leave women above a certain size in the dust."

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