New York - 'The Cal 2018', the Pirelli Calender authored by the photographer Tim Walker and presented in New York is a kind of dream. A fantasy - crystalized in photos that emanate life and movement - inspired by the surreal dreamworld created by the English writer Lewis Carroll (pseudonym of Charles Dodgson, author, mathematician and photographer, Daresbury 1832 - Guildford 1898) in his most famous book: Alice in Wonderland, 1865.
Twelve chapters in the book, twelve months in the year, twelve tableaux vivants created by the highly cultured and imaginative English photographer who has given real-life features to the protagonists of the story: Duckie Thot, the Sudanese-Australian top model, is Alice, while the Queen of Hearts two executioners are played by rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs (Puff Daddy) and Naomi Campbell, who for her fourth Pirelli Calendar appears in a black bobbed hairdo and clothed in latex. Then there is the Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o Ghiro as the Dormouse, with Adwoa Aboah, model and activist playing Tweedledum, actress Whoopi Goldberg as the Duchess, and the model Slick Woods as the enigmatic Mad Hatter. In all, seventeen black celebrities - an artistic and political statement - from the worlds of fashion, music, cinema and the underground universe, evoking Carrols characters in an interpretation that deliberately avoids imitating the original story.
Tim Walker superbly succeeds in synthesizing in a single shot the extravagantly teeming fantasies inspired by the tale, transforming this 45th Pirelli Calender into another Wonderland. An operation which reverses the narrative perspective proposed by Carrol: "So she sat on with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality", he writes in his tale. Adults too crave for fantasies - the photographer seems to suggest - to escape from everyday reality, with its hard work, sometimes difficult and sometimes so disturbing as to be unbearable. But the world of Walkers Alice is peopled by real people, observed with open eyes, and it disappears the moment that our attention is distracted. A tale told in images is not concerned with explaining everything: on the contrary, it leaves the mind free to construct its own meanings and interpretations.
The story of Alice contains a long dream, which like all dreams can be interpreted in different ways: the brutal and unjustified arrogance of power, the confusion and fear involved in growing up, the shaping of identity, the rites of passage which transform us and turns the "power" of grown-ups into something smaller and smaller until it disappears. Because everything is transformed, in fairytales as in life. As the poet Eugenio Montale wrote: "Today we can tell you only this, / what we are not, / what we do not want" ( from Ossi di Seppia, 1925). Not so far away from Alices reply to the Caterpillars question: "Who are you?" "I - I hardly know, sir, just at present. At least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then".