Elska Magazine this month celebrates its two year anniversary. Since its launch, Elska has built a reputation for introducing readers to diverse groups of queer men from around the world, presented with sincerity through raw and evocative photography and intimate stories.
For each edition of Elska, the team travels to a different city and heads to social media to recruit locals to be photographed and write a personal story. Everyone is welcome as long as they live in the city, no matter their age, race, body type, sexuality, etc. As a result the fifteen or so men spotlighted in each ‘bookazine‘ reveal a spontaneous and authentic glimpse at life in the featured city as it is, not idealised or contrived. The men don’t have styles dictated and the locations are not specially selected – rather they are simply shot in their homes and in various neighbourhoods, and they wear their own clothes or sometimes nothing at all. Then the stories accompanying them are totally free format, published in their original languages and followed by English translations, letting each use their individual voices to tell us something about themselves and life in their city.
Among LGBTQ media, Elska’s approach is still too rare, focusing on a wide range of men instead of privileging celebrities, models, and porn stars. Riding a line between documentary and editorial, between a sort of anthropology journal and pin-up mag, the beauty of Elska is in its revealing of all these diverse men as equally beautiful, but just in different ways.
“I admit that I was naïve when I started Elska” says editor and chief photographer Liam Campbell. “While I was aware that media was into young, muscled white boys, I didn’t quite understand the depth of the problem until we published the Taipei edition. We actually received letters of complaint from readers declaring ‘sorry but I’m just not into Asians’ as well as feedback from shops in Europe saying that the issue just wasn’t selling as well as the others. But rather than become discouraged, I got fired up and immediately started planning a second Asian city (Yokohama) and later one in India (Mumbai). I just genuinely see beauty in all types of men, and rather than accept that I’m some kind of freak for feeling that way, I was determined that I could get others in time to see it too.”
In its first two years, Elska has published twelve editions, dedicated to the following cities: Lviv (Ukraine), Berlin (Germany), Reykjavík (Iceland), Lisbon (Portugal), Taipei (Taiwan), Istanbul (Turkey), Cardiff (Wales), Toronto (Canada), Yokohama (Japan), Mumbai (India), Providence (USA), and Brussels (Belgium). The next year will see an expanded global reach, with hopes for featuring a Latin American city and perhaps one down under.
Elska is sold in around fifty retailers worldwide or for order online. In addition to the classic print ‘bookazine’, there is also a tablet/iPad version. A list of stockists and details of the subscription service can also be found on the Elska website, www.elskamagazine.com.