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Pirelli Calendar 2007: like shooting with friends

How Dutch photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin created a sense of intimacy with the star-studded line-up of their Pirelli Calendar

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Every Pirelli Calendar possesses its own look and style, but the 2007 edition was radically different from what had come before. Out went the glamour of previous shoots to be replaced by a series of startling black and white photographs with just a bed as a prop.

Entitled “A Bed and Five Stories”, it was shot by the Dutch fashion photography duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin and featured five of Hollywood's most acclaimed actresses – Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz, Hilary Swank, Naomi Watts and newcomer Lou Doillon.

Penelope Cruz was one of five actresses to appear in the 2007 Pirelli Calendar. In shooting her on a bed in a room, the photographers Inez and Vinoodh hoped to get away from the red carpet and paparazzi pictures for which she was known, and capture her at her most candid.


The Calendar showed each woman on her own in the most private and pared-back setting – a return to the simplicity of the film sets, stories and photography of the early 1960s (reminiscent of the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Michelangelo Antonioni). “We are in a room with just a bed and sheet,” said van Lamsweerde of the set-up. “We wanted to make it as personal and intimate as possible, as if we were shooting pictures with friends.” The 26 images had all the immediacy and spontaneity of a lover's snapshots and rank among the most candid pictures ever featured in a Pirelli Calendar.

According to van Lamsweerde, the pictures were meant to capture the hidden and most intense aspects of each woman. Cruz was seen as “sanguine and sensual”, Swank as “a pure, sporty, natural American beauty”. Doillon was “elegant and cool” and Watts “sleek and sophisticated, representing British perfection”. Loren was simply “a superstar and legend”.

Before the release of the 2007 Pirelli Calendar shot by photographers Inez and Vinoodh, there was some speculation that its star – actress Sophia Loren – would appear nude. Although that was not the case (she wore a sheer black top), this portrait (from the month of March) was startling in its intimacy.


By all accounts, the actresses were thrilled to take part. Swank likened the shoot to being on a movie set. Doillon took pride in just being asked. “When they called and said would you like to do the Calendar, I thought, yes, of course I would. I would, I would, I would!” she admitted. After all, she explained, this is “the chicest calendar of the year”.

When the line-up was made public, the inclusion of Sophia Loren understandably caused the most excitement. An icon of cinema, Sophia Loren was 72 at the time and the oldest woman ever to pose for a Pirelli Calendar. Before the images were released, there was some speculation about whether she would appear nude. As her publicist explained, the actress received hundreds of requests to pose nude in the 1960s and turned them all down. In fact, she was shown wearing sheer black with a pair of diamond-drop earrings. Loren herself revealed how she had wanted to star in a Pirelli Calendar for a long time. “I had a lot of fun,” she said of the shoot. “I felt like a young girl again…”

Oscar-winning actress Penelope Cruz starred in the 2007 Pirelli Calendar. Out went the glamour of previous shoots to be replaced by a series of black and white photos with just a bed as a prop.


The casting of film world celebrities in the Calendar was nothing new. Recent editions had featured Sienna Miller and Jennifer Lopez. And the 2002 Cal shot by Peter Lindbergh at Paramount Studios made a virtue of casting only actresses in what became a portfolio of young Hollywood talent, including Selma Blair, Mena Suvari and Julia Stiles. Nonetheless, the 2007 Calendar shot in Pasadena, California, took things to a whole new level. These were celebrities up close and personal and then some. Few other photographers would have been granted such access or been trusted to execute such a delicate story. But Inez and Vinoodh (as they were professionally known) were not only experienced at working with big stars but ranked among their favourites.

The pair met in the early 1980s as students at the Amsterdam Fashion Academy. They first collaborated when Matadin, then an aspiring designer, approached van Lamsweerde to shoot his 1986 collection. At the time, they were both seeing other people. By 1992, they were single and started dating. Seven years later, they married.

Double Oscar winner Hilary Swank was among the line-up for the 2007 Pirelli Calendar shot by photographers Inez and Vinoodh. The set-up was little more than a bed and some sheets, which Swank likened to being on a movie set. According to Inez, Swank epitomised “a pure, sporty, natural American beauty”.


They began working together as artists in the early 1990s. In its use of digital special effects, their work was noticeably ahead of its time. Their breakthrough story “For Your Pleasure”, published in British style magazine The Face in April 1994, featured models superimposed on to backgrounds taken from image banks. One model was shown in an evening gown on her hands and knees against the backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. In another shot, a pair of models were pictured in shorts on bicycles in front of a space shuttle as it was taking off. “It was what would happen if Ziggy Stardust and JG Ballard got together to take fashion pictures,” said Lee Swillingham, then creative director of The Face. “It was so ahead of its time.” The images were certainly at odds with the prevailing mood of grunge and heroin-chic and helped to usher in a new era of commercial fashion photography.

The Dutch photographers were soon working for leading publications such as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Visionaire. They shot campaigns for major brands including Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton and Estée Lauder and exhibited work in galleries and museums. No longer radical (they quickly moved away from digital manipulation); their work doesn't have what might be called an identifiable look. A 2010 profile of van Lamsweerde from The Gentlewoman noted how her back catalogue reflects the “total fashion photography universe”. But a sense of immediacy and accessibility is common to all of their work.

Actress Naomi Watts joined the likes of Penelope Cruz and Hilary Swank in the 2007 Pirelli Calendar shot by Dutch photographers Inez and Vinoodh. Pictured on a bed in one of the most intimate set-ups in the Calendar's history, Watts was described by Inez as “sleek and sophisticated, representing British perfection”.


As a pair, they certainly inspire loyalty in celebrities, many of whom work with them repeatedly. “When I hear I'm shooting with them, I just jump up and down,” frequent collaborator actress Julianne Moore has said. Other regulars include Madonna and Lady Gaga. Despite their seemingly full-on method of working – they both wield a camera and photograph their subjects simultaneously from different angles, with van Lamsweerde tending to shoot head-on and Matadin moving around – the pair know how to put their subjects at ease. Sometimes they use a choreographer to help subjects loosen up. They often prefer working in studios against plain backgrounds rather than on location with multiple set-ups.

Crucially, their images always deliver. Their portraits are simple, but desirable. Celebrities come back for more because they enjoy the process and adore the end result. The 2007 Pirelli Calendar showed them and their subjects at their very best.

The final page of the 2007 Pirelli Calendar was given over to French newcomer Lou Doillon. The simple set-up of a bed in a room and the use of black and white photography harked back to Italian cinema from the early 1960s.