Meet the Inspirational 2016 Pirelli Calendar Girls Photographed by Annie Leibovitz

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Notorious for its artsy, NSFW photoshoots featuring models and celebrities alike, the 2016 Pirelli calendar has a different central focus: intimate portraits of 13 inspirational women who are shaping the world, photographed by Annie Leibovitz.

From Amy Schumer to Serena Williams, art philanthropist Agnes Gund to director Ava Duvernay, this year’s cast is definitely all-star: a “radical and inspirational departure from previous years” and “a calendar of our time,” Pirelli says.

The musicians, filmmakers, artists, comedians, athletes, and writers handpicked by Leibovitz are: Schumer, Williams, Gund, Duvernay, Tavi Gevinson, producer Kathleen Kennedy, Chinese actress (and Weibo’s most followed user) Yao Chen, Natalia Vodianova, Patti Smith, Fran Lebowitz, Yoko Ono, Dreamworks Chairman Mellody Hobson, and Iranian artist Shirin Neshat.

Ava Duvernaybehind the scenes pirell calendar shoot by annie leibovitz
CREDIT: Courtesy of Annie Leibovitz Studio

Leibovitz said of the project, photographed in New York City back in May:

I started to think about the roles that women play, women who have achieved something. I wanted to make a classic set of portraits. I thought that the women should look strong but natural and I decided to keep it a very simple exercise of shooting in the studio. This calendar is so completely different. It is a departure. The idea was not to have any pretense in these pictures and be very straightforward.

Smith told Vogue, “I’ve seen a few of the photographs and they’re striking. I have no idea what the average recipient would [think], but I think that they should appreciate a bold move. We’ll see.” On collaborating with Leibowitz, she added,

It was fantastic because I’ve been shooting with Annie since the ’70s, and so we’ve been through the trenches together. I was very surprised that I was asked, and I was very proud that I was asked, and I think that Annie is doing something unique and different, and Pirelli is making a bold move. I look at Annie’s project not as a protest, but as a celebration.

Patti Smith behind the scenes pirell calendar shoot by annie leibovitz
CREDIT: Courtesy of Annie Leibovitz Studio

Likewise, Gevinson commented to the fashion magazine, “I feel completely unworthy . . . I’m honored. I think it’s amazing to be a part of this group of women who are being celebrated for so many different things in something that’s traditionally celebrating one thing—which is also great!”

For the bulk of its 51-year-history, the Pirelli calendar has certainly put the emphasis on the skin and the seduction. A vast array of models and stars like Gigi Hadid, Joan Smalls, Kate Moss, Penelope Cruz, Karen Elson, Agyness Deyn and Freja Beha Erichson have graced its pages in the past.

Leibowitz worked on her first Pirelli calendar back in 2000; she’s one of only four female photographed to have spearheaded the shoot since its 1964 debut, and now one of 10 photographers to have photographed two editions. Other fashion greats who have worked on the Cal include Herb Ritts, Mario Testino, Bruce Weber, Inez & VinoodhPatrick Demarchelier, Nick Knight, Terry Richardson, Karl Lagerfeld, Helmut Newton, and Steven Meisel.

Check out the gallery above for more behind-the-scenes photos from the Pirelli Calendar shoot.

The 2016 Cal will be officially presented at the Roundhouse in London on November 30th, 2015.