In the eight dizzying months since she left Glamour to become our swimsuit editor, Elaine Farley has often thought about the big shoes she's had to fill. "Following in Jule Campbell's footsteps is nearly impossible," says Farley. "She had this job for 32 years—she's the only other person ever to have it. Her legacy is overwhelming."
So rather than imitating Campbell, Farley decided to make some changes. For starters, this year's issue features swimsuit photos of professional athletes, including Steffi Graf. When Graf arrived on location in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Farley could instantly see why she has won 21 Grand Slam titles. "Steffi's a perfectionist," says Farley. "And when she plays tennis, she's used to feeling that she controls her destiny. Here, she seemed to feel she was at the mercy of the camera. That was difficult for her. But she was spectacular. She excels at what she does, and she also looks amazing."
This year's swimsuit issue also stands on its own—subscribers are receiving it in addition to their weekly issue—and it contains 152 edit pages, roughly three times the number in our regular issues. Farley chose to fill those pages with photos shot at seven locations on three continents and to use the bikini to tie the sites together. "I wanted to use classic places around the world that represented the bikini, this icon of cool," explains Farley. "Last year marked the end of the bikini's first 50 years, so this is a salute to 50 more years of the bikini. Sort of, 'Let's keep it going!' "
Fortunately, Farley loves to travel, since she has had to keep it going from Venezuela's Angel Falls, the world's tallest, to a rented Malibu beach house; from trendy Harbour Island in the Bahamas to the sleepy Mexican village of Todos Santos, where she and model Stacy Williams spontaneously concocted a shoot centering on "the bikini in the pool hall." In each locale Farley strove to illuminate a different side of women. "I've always loved images, putting pictures together," says Farley, who graduated with a degree in painting from New York City's School of Visual Arts and enjoys "hanging out at bookstores," where she browses through photography, art and design books for inspiration. At one extreme was the Monte Carlo shoot, in which Farley aimed for an "over-the-top glamorous" look inspired by a photo book of Riviera scenes from the 1930s. At the grittier end were the shots of professional beach volleyball players, taken on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where the women were competing in a tournament. "They'd play, then come to us for an afternoon shoot," says Farley. "They were excited about promoting women as serious athletes and seriously sexy. Theirs are beautiful, beautiful photos."
As are they all. So here's to our new swimsuit editor and to 50 more years of the bikini.