The Cyclepassion calendar
A recent issue of Cycling Weekly had a debate article relating to the Cyclepassion calendar. This followed on from a number of complaints from readers after this most esteemed cycling journal published an advertisement for the calendar which displays photos of female racing cyclists posing with their bikes.
More specifically they are made up, with their hair beautifully coiffeured, dressed in a very comely fashion, often in leather and heels, revealing more flesh than they would do when out on their bikes, and showing off a sensual pout.
These "glamour" photos are featured alongside a corresponding photo of the athlete in racing action on her bike.
Readers have been outraged that Cycling Weekly would publish this "chauvinistic rubbish". One reader thought he had "gone back in time by about 40 years", while others dismissed the calendar as porn and demeaning to women.
Although I have never bought the calendar and have no plans to buy it, I must say I quite like the idea behind it. I think the photography looks good and I like the way that they portray the femininity of each of the riders. It is always nice to see another side to these hardcore athletes, though I must admit that some of the photos lack taste.
Even though some of the photos look a little bit clichéd is that a reason for people to be outraged by it? Could it not be seen as just another form of artistic expression that can be appreciated or not, depending on one's personal tastes? I am not that keen on Modigliani but it doesn't make me send flames over the internet when I see one!
The models for the Cyclepassion calendar are not forced into doing it. Posing for a calendar is one of several ways of raising your personal profile in this day and age where people can achieve "celebrity status" through a variety of routes.
The women featured in the calendar are elite athletes who are well-known in their own right - people like road racers Hanka Kupfernagel and Liz Hatch, mountain biker Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesja, and cyclo cross racer Nikki Harris have featured on the calendar. They could have put a cyclosportive to their name, they could have launched a range of bikes or clothing, written a column in a publication or appeared on a celebrity dance or reality show! But hey, they've chosen to be a model, and who am I to lambast them for it?
Whether we love it or loathe it, this is called freedom of choice. If the footage that shows the making of the calendar is anything to go by the women appear to be really enjoying the experience. In fact, they see themselves as very lucky to have the opportunity since, according to Anke Wilken the originator the calendar in 2006, there are so many more athletes applying to be featured in the calendar than the 12 places available. It is quite a dilemma for her selecting the chosen few!
For me, some there are stylish photos and there are some less stylish photos in the calendars. But it is still a long way off pornography, so I have no problem with it.
Drawing a parallel with Cyclepassion's older, more exclusive, classier counterpart, the Pirelli Calendar, this has gradually become a well respected publication after the initial protestations when it was first launched in 1964. With only limited copies of the calendar available to a carefully selected clientele, the recipient of this calendar from the Italian tyre company is bound to feel like very privileged! In fact, the photographers and the models involved in its production see it as a prestigious moment of their careers. Kate Moss, who has appeared in the Cal on a number of occasions described modelling for it as "the best job ever," while Clive Arrowsmith who was commissioned to shoot the 1991 and 1992 editions described it as being "like a knighthood of photography." The Pirelli Calendar prides itself on taste and has moved with the times by shooting the models with their clothes on. Indeed the current calendar, which celebrates its 50th anniversary contains previously unseen photos taken by the late Helmut Newton in 1985. All of the models are fully clothed and look as lovely as ever.
When Annie Leibovitz shot the photos for the 2000 edition of the calendar she saw it as an opportunity to look at women in a way that has integrity to it, and in a very classy way.
I have no problem with that, and I think that's what the Cyclepassion calendar is trying to do. And who knows, it might still be going in 50 years' time!