di Silvia Dogliani
PARIS – After the sunny Rio de Janeiro, also the rainy Paris is ready to present the popular 2013 Pirelli calendar in an elegant event organized at the Espace Palais Royal on the 10th of January. This year the Italian tires company decided to focus on social, leaving behind the eroticism which has been characterized the Pirelli calendar since the beginning. To many an hazard. To others an interesting change. To some a real mistake. To Steve McCurry, the American world famous reportage photographer who worked on this edition, a risky challenge to face. Focusméditerranée met McCurry in Paris and asked him to explain what’s behind this choice.
FM_MY TRUTH: Steve McCurry’s pictures for Pirelli calendar 2013 are full of passion. I love the quality of light in particular. They give a sense of Brazilian atmosphere, they bring out the top models sensuality and sexuality and they tell a story. What I would have avoided are the reportage images as the capoeira, the graffiti or the street vendors ones, were the top models sensuality is left behind. Those images are good for a reportage of a “street photographer” – as McCurry describe himself – but are not for Pirelli calendar: they take us away from its tradition of giving priority to women beauty, sensuality and eroticism.
Mr. McCurry, in this edition of Pirelli calendar you chose to work with unnaked top models socially involved. For example two of them – Hanna Ben Abdesslem and Elisa Sednaoui – were committed with Mediterranean issues reletaed to the Arab revolutions. Did you freely choose the top models or was Pirelli which ask you to do so?
Actually the beginning of the idea was mine and of Jennifer Star, the casting director. Then we talked also with my agent in Milan and with the advisor… It came out as a brainstorm session of all of us. Pirelli, as you can imagine, was involved with every step. But the beauty of the project is that you are giving a freedom to interpret the calendar in your own way. This choice seems more appropriate, more in line with my work and all I view the world. Also it seems like a natural thing to do. There were some wonderful models that we wanted to have in the calendar, but they were not available for family or personal reasons.
You did not choose “ordinary people” socially involved, like your colleague Oliviero Toscani did for the Italian fashion company Benetton?
I think that for the tradition of Pirelli calendar, there is no reason to do so. There is a continuity between what they did in the past and what they chose to do now. There is never a total freedom (he says with a smile). It was expected to do another variation, new pictures; but not to do something unexpected. As Brazilian model, Adriana Lima was an obvious choice, but we were not aware she was pregnant and I guess, when we discovered it. …
(he makes a pause and goes back to his past) I did a job long time ago for a top model, when she was pregnant. She actually hired me herself: it was a job for her. In her view, this was just natural. The kind of thing that with Adriana Lima was like great. It got to be fun to do that.
What was the main massage you wanted to give by using these particular top models?
It was probably lots of things. One was that I wanted Rio to have a voice in the calendar. I am not a fashion photographer, but I believe people normally think of models in a particularly way, like a stereotype model: they are beautiful, they takes drugs, they don’t have anything to say. Working and talking with someone smart, someone socially committed goes against the stereotypes.
How is working with an Arab woman, like Hanaa Ben Abdesslem, for example?
That also goes into the same point of stereotype. She is Tunisian, she is Arab, she is a Muslim woman… but it is not one thing, but million of things. You cannot just generalize. She is charming and intelligent and she was great to work with. I met her actually while doing breakfast. And there were nobody, just her and me. I saw her and … You get the sense of a person: how they are without saying a lot. I just had a really good feeling: she was genuine, not full of herself, she was acting like a “real person”, despite the fact she works and signed contracts with major brands. We got along very well together. We talked about Middle East, Tunisia, her affection and love with her country.
In your work you have been covered conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iraq. Why the “Arab Spring” – started from Tunisia and moved to Egypt and other North African Countries -, did not catch your attention? Why did you decided not to cover also these events?
It relates to the way I create my life. During the ’80 I was able to immediately react: as soon as I got a news I was ready to leave the morning after. Now, for a variety of things, I am not able to react that way. When the Arab revolts started, I simply could not move. I was busy with other things.
In the Pirelli Calendar human element is strong, but what most fascinated you is “light”. Do you see any “light” in the Mediterranean after the Arab revolutions?
Interesting question (but he simply answers with a smile and with an uncertain look).
Which pictures would you have taken if Pirelli had asked you to do the calendar in North Africa? Which image to you represent the Mediterranean today?
I am inspired by things that happens upon. Real situation. I would focus on what’s unique about North Africa: symbols we don’t have anywhere else: the Pyramids, the Libya architecture, Marrakech, Casablanca…This is the Mediterranean which I would photograph.