How Charlie Chaplin inspired the Lavazza 2021 calendar

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One of the first 2021 calendars to be launched during the pandemic, Lavazza works with the theme ‘The New Humanity’ and features photographers Ami Vitale, Martin Schoeller and others

This May, Italian coffee company Lavazza launched its new global communication campaign, Good Morning Humanity. Based on actor-filmmaker Charlie Chaplin’s speech in The Great Dictator 80 years ago — which exhorted people not to depair in the face of trials and tribulations — the ad showcased stunning landscapes and portraits by photographers such as Steve McCurry and Jerome Sessini, and was a way for the brand to ‘look positively to the future that awaits us’. Chaplin’s call for peace has gained relevance in the last few months, and so Lavazza’s much-awaited 2021 calendar, themed ‘The New Humanity’, is an extension of the campaign.

Much like earlier editions (shot in Vietnam and Hawaii), this one is also centered around sustainability, but what makes it different is how it was conceived and conceptualised during lockdown. “The project wants to encourage citizens of the world in this slow escape from the coronavirus emergency, now that the phase of coexistence with the world pandemic has begun,” says Francesca Lavazza, Board Member Lavazza Group, adding that this year, the calendar becomes a 360° artistic project. It brings together photographers, musicians, directors, sociologists, engineers and environmentalists.

Francesca Lavazza

Sustainability has always been a focal point for Lavazza. Past calendars and initiatives like the ‘Toward 2030 – What are You Doing?’, highlighted the United Nations’ goal of transforming Earth by 2030. The 2020 calendar, with impressive shots by celebrated American photographer David LaChapelle, was an interesting take on a world without climate change. In 2019, Ami Vitale had pictures of art installations in natural settings in the ‘Good to Earth’ series.

The 2021 edition “has 13 shots that, through the maximum freedom of each artist, their personal gaze and their peculiar style, bring back a new and positive vision of humanity. The six ambassadors — including architect Carlo Ratti and actor Kiera Chaplin — enrich the interpretation of the concept by entrusting it to different languages and expressions: a drawing, a written thought, a piece of music, etc,” says Francesca, adding that proceeds from the sale of 1,000 calendars and photograph auctions will go towards Gurugram-based NGO Save the Children’s project.

We speak to two photographers about working on the 2021 edition:

Ami Vitale

Ami Vitale and ‘the ancient footsteps’

Featuring the feet of Africa’s Samburu tribe, Vitale’s chosen image is themed on reimagining our relationship with nature. She says it was a conscious choice given the ongoing crisis — not just with the pandemic but also the devastating consequences man has had on nature. The photographer explains the image was taken during lockdown in northern Kenya, “where humanity began”. “You can literally feel the ancient footsteps all around you here. Twenty years ago, this landscape was empty of wildlife as poachers had decimated the elephants, the ecosystem’s engineers,” says Vitale, adding how this had a ripple effect on other animals too.

Today, the Samburu people have become the elephants’ greatest protectors. They have created Africa’s first ever community-owned and run elephant sanctuary, Reteti. “This oasis where the orphans grow up, learning to be wild so that one day they can rejoin their herds, is a story as much about the elephants as it is about all of humanity,” says Vitale, who recently launched a sale (on printsfornature.com) with 70 top art, nature and wildlife photographers, to benefit conservation.

Martin Schoeller’s image for the 2021 Lavazza calendar

Martin Schoeller’s image for the 2021 Lavazza calendar   | Photo Credit: Martin Schoeller

Martin Schoeller

Since September, Schoeller’s Instagram feed has featured portraits of masked New Yorkers: police officers, painters, security guards and students. Before that, it was a series on Holocaust survivors. For 2021’s Lavazza calendar, the master of close-ups has taken his love for details up a notch with an image of 25 eyes taken earlier this year. His concept note might state that ‘through the eyes, the truth always comes out’, but Schoeller admits that “photos lie at times”. “It is tough to get a hard read of a person by looking at a picture, even if it is a straightforward close-up,” he says. The one thing that you can glean from looking at a good portrait, however, is “a sense of something that brings us together as humans”. “We all have underlying fears, insecurities and a desire for a better future and belonging to something greater,” explains Schoeller, whose powerful series, Death Row Exonerees, is on view at Fotografiska in New York City until January 2021.

Martin Schoeller

As for the eyes, he says while they are all unique, they fill the same purpose. “It goes to show that in the greater scheme of things, we have the same organs and eyes, and we see the same way. We think we are so individual, but we are closer to each other than we think.” As an artist who enjoys extreme portrait details, what is it about our current interactions on Zoom and Instagram Lives that pique his interest? “I like Instagram because I can show and tell the stories that I find important. As for Zoom, I don’t enjoy it much as it is impersonal. I miss human interactions. A lot has gotten lost with us just staring at a screen all day long. It is sad,” he concludes.

The calendar launches on November 12 on lavazza.com.

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