Rick Poynor | Exposure

Exposure: Pirelli Calendar Model by Peter Lindbergh

Jaime King by Peter Lindbergh, Los Angeles, 2001

The theme of the 2002 Pirelli Calendar, shot by Peter Lindbergh, was Hollywood, and the calendar includes this picture of the model-turned-actress Jaime King, who had recently starred in Pearl Harbor. Taschen is using a slice of the photograph as a header on a website page about its new Pirelli book.

The Pirelli Calendar, like Playboy, has parlayed its collection of high-class trophy pin-ups into a global institution. Big-name photographers—Richard Avedon, Bruce Weber, Annie Leibovitz—readily provide their services, and beautiful women from Gisele Bündchen to Julianne Moore consent to pose. Newspapers and magazines fall over themselves to run slide shows spotlighting the “hottest women from every Pirelli calendar ever,” as GQ frothed in a recent publicity piece. Lindbergh’s picture was one of them.

Where does feminism stand on this kind of objectification now? Lindbergh’s exquisitely staged and composed scene is notable for breaking the fourth wall and making its subject (in a way we can’t entirely call Brechtian) the normally hidden from view mechanics involved in the production line of glamorous images. The photographer’s week-long shoot with a cast of female film stars took place on a backlot at Universal Studios, and required a crew the size of a movie’s. The guys play a secondary role here as a chorus line of male gazers captivated by King’s blond hair, getup and legs.

Many are inclined to take images like this at face value as representations of female empowerment. To this way of thinking, King is doing a fine job of making the best of her assets, as any sensible person should, and good for her if these happen to include looking stunning in lingerie under a rain machine’s shower. As an emerging movie star, it’s her function to relish being looked at. Her sensual stance conveys her power to command an audience as well as her total assurance in the gratifying role of magnet for the attention that others will feel compelled to bestow. She, not her viewers, is the one in the center, generating the heat.

At the same time, like the mobile film equipment positioned beside her, King is also a kind of instrument wheeled into shot, fulfilling a purpose determined by others who stand to profit from her loveliness. As her isolation in this widescreen space implies, she was a potentially vulnerable ingénue in an interminable parade of new arrivals. If Lindbergh harbored misgivings about objectifying his female subjects, though, he presumably wouldn’t have shot the calendar, or spent his career photographing models. This is a fashion-world insider’s picture, a gorgeous piece of artifice, dissolving in light and water, which achieves a degree of candor about its genesis and anticipated reception not often seen in glamor photos.

See all Exposure columns

Posted in: Exposure, Media, Photography

Comments [5]

sagar malhotra

ltalltall ken

ltalltall ken

I would not have thought to scrutinize the meaning behind a photograph this deeply if there wasn't an exposition article here. But it's interesting to think of what the composition of the photo implies isn't it? That being said, the politics behind a woman in acting or modelling doesn't detract away from the commercial companies wanting a pretty person to help them market clothes or jewellery or other products.
Andrew Campbell

I remember this valuable and a very unique post in my mind so that I get a good review about stocks in nice manner.
Taposy Rabeya

Jobs | July 20