Kept secret since 1986: Helmut Newton’s lost Pirelli Calendar

Rather than commissioning an entirely new production, Pirelli’s 2014 calendar instead features a set of previously unreleased images taken by star photographer Helmut Newton. The stunning shots have remained hidden within the corporate archives since 1986…

The idea of giving away the calendar to a restricted group of important clients dates back to 1964, when the company’s British arm sought a new marketing strategy. The effect of limiting distribution was a success, and soon word of the mythical calendar went around the world.

Skip forward to the mid-80s, and Pirelli’s Italian PR department wants a slice of the action. Pirelli UK commissions American photographer Bert Stern, while Pirelli Italia engages German-Australian Helmut Newton; the American’s images are ultimately selected, but Newton’s snaps taken in Chianti and Monte Carlo are deemed too good to discard. They’re kept safely in a vault, until it’s decided that something out of the ordinary is needed for 2014 – the 50th anniversary of 'The Cal'. The stars literally aligned when it was realised that 1986 and 2014 share the same calendar year and, as a result, this year’s recipients will be treated to not only 12 previously unreleased images, but also 29 behind-the-scenes shots.

Photos: © Pirelli Calendar 2014, Helmut Newton