Bryan Adams photographs Cher, Grimes and Iggy Pop for Pirelli calendar

Images of recording artists including Cher, Iggy Pop, Jennifer Hudson and Grimes will feature in one of the world’s best known photographic commissions.

For the 2022 Pirelli calendar, the rock star and photographer Bryan Adams has captured superstar singers as if they were touring – precisely what they have been unable to do for more than a year.

Adams had planned a different project for the 2021 calendar but that was shelved because of Covid. When Pirelli approached him again he pitched the idea of touring.

“What was apparent, because of Covid, was that nobody was working,” he said. “All the musicians globally had basically come to a halt so I suggested to Pirelli that we do a feature ‘on the road’ because it was the one thing we couldn’t do.”

The resulting calendar will explore different aspects of being on tour at different times of day, whether that’s waking up in a hotel room, travelling on a bus, or in a green room.

The calendar will be published in November, and will also feature images of Rita Ora, Normani, Bohan Phoenix, St Vincent, Saweetie and Kali Uchis.

Adams came up with the concepts but everyone brought their own personality to shoots, he said.

“You can only set up a scenario to a certain extent and then it lights up when they enter the room.

“Each artist did bring their own character. No matter what I presented to them in terms of how we were going to do it, it is their character which shines through even though my idea might have been this or that. They have turned it into their own thing.”

Photographing Iggy Pop was a particular joy. Adams recalled being at a Brooklyn gig in 1981 and watching Pop smash a microphone into his face, knocking out a front tooth.

For years, Adams wondered whether that had actually happened: “Did I really see that?” He discovered during the shoot that he did.

“My story was confirmed … you can imagine me as a young musician and seeing someone do that, it was such a commitment to music. He has the same energy today. When he came on set it was almost like: are you ready? Yes, bang, off we go. We’re now in the Iggy show. It was really exciting. He got a standing ovation at the end of it.”

Adams has had a passion for photography since childhood and has managed to carve out a parallel career that has developed organically. “It wasn’t like there was a conscious effort of: ‘I’m going to be a photographer. One thing would lead to the next thing which led to the next thing.”

Adams’s memorable moments include photographing the Queen and Prince Philip in 2001 – “we got five minutes” – and projects such as documenting Big Issue sellers.

Until the 2010s, the Pirelli calendar’s reputation was for raunchiness, with big-name photographers taking artfully lit pictures of naked women. “It’s not that any more,” said Adams. “I’m glad. It needed to evolve. This is much more interesting.”

In 2016 Annie Leibovitz shot portraits of women chosen for their “professional, social, cultural, sporting and artistic accomplishment”.

Tim Walker’s 2018 calendar was Alice in Wonderland-themed with an all-black cast that included Whoopi Goldberg, Lupita Nyong’o and RuPaul.

Adams has also written and recorded a new album over the past year. He hopes to get back to touring in November and getting back to work was important, he said, not just for him but for the whole music touring infrastructure, the crew who have families who depend on touring, the truck drivers, the people who work in merchandising, “all of these different people literally out of work”.

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