In fact, in the early years it was rare for anybody but Campbell, the photographer and the model of the moment to be at the shoot. Since strobe lights have come into use, though, photographers have had to bring assistants along, and now Campbell also has an assistant, Ann Gallagher, on location.
During the quarter century of shoots, which almost always take place in the autumn, there have been no major disasters but many minor mishaps: a predictable number of run-ins with spiders and snakes; a van that almost slid off a cliff; a helicopter that crashed—no one was hurt—on Shell Island in Florida. "Tell me if they get too close," said John Zimmerman, a notably intrepid photographer, as he worked waist deep in the waters off Bora Bora with Campbell and a model in 1967. Campbell thought he was referring to some small fish feeding nearby. In fact, the turbulence Campbell saw was created by sharks. Zimmerman coolly got the photo he wanted—it made the cover—and then advised Campbell and the model that they had better hightail it for the beach.
Zimmerman has now shot seven issues, more than any other photographer; Walter Iooss Jr. has worked six. That these two, both regular SI photographers, have shot 13 of the bathing suit issues attests that Campbell likes to use sports photographers: Just as she sought a different type of model, so she thought that using photographers without a fashion background would bring a different look to SI's shots. "A sports photographer probably enjoys the work more than a fashion photographer, because it's a long way from shooting Mike Tyson or the Knicks," says Campbell. Occasionally, though, she mixes in one of her favorite fashion photographers, such as Marc Hispard, who shot last year's swimsuit issue and who has photos in this one.
A photographer will take as many as 25,000 pictures during the six weeks. Campbell and the photographer then winnow this huge inventory down to about 150 "selects," which are shown to the managing editor, who makes the ultimate choices.
In January, after the issue is closed, Campbell cleans up her office, answers stacks of accumulated mail, does interviews on the issue for radio, newspapers and TV, and begins work on the next year's swimsuit calendar. She researches locations, and once she and the managing editor have made a selection, she studies the site closely, looking not just for the obvious—scenic beaches and landmarks—but for indigenous colors and styles. She seldom employs props—except perhaps little boats, which she has a thing for. "Boats identify a particular region of the world," says Campbell. "In Tahiti they have the outrigger. In Kenya there are dhows. Palm trees and beaches look alike the world over."
Predictably, the two questions Campbell is forever asked are:
1) Why don't you use male models?
2) Why don't you use female athletes instead of female models?
1) "Our readers see good-looking males in SI all year long—often in shorts, or without shirts."