The ninth in Elska Magazine’s series of male photography and culture ‘bookazines’ has been dedicated to Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city. It’s Elska’s second visit to Asia following its Taipei issue last May. Yet despite being on the same continent, Japan couldn’t be more different from Taiwan, and the issue became Elska’s most challenging edition to make yet.
“My preconceived notion of Japan was of an ultra-modern and forward place, but this progressivism did not extend to society” says editor and founder Liam Campbell. “Even though Elska isn’t completely full of nude images, it was difficult to find people willing to participate due to having nude content at all, due to conservatism. My previous experience in Japan visiting an onsen full of seemingly liberated naked bathers led me to assume it would be a very easy-going place, but when it came to be photographed nude, people closed up. And being a gay mag didn’t help either – ‘I could lose my job’ was the response of more than a few guys we spoke to. In the end, however, with lots of persistence and hard graft we did find enough local boys to participate, and here are the results.“
Conservatism aside, like last year’s Taipei edition, Elska again showcases Asian men, who are often invisible in gay media and underrepresented in media as a whole. Elska also, through its tradition of shooting anyone who wants to participate as long as they live in the chosen city, brings to the fore men of varying ages, body types, races, and styles. Yokohama was actually a very multicultural city, and this issue’s local boys include expats from China, Vietnam, Brazil, and the USA. That’s in addition to the born and bred Japanese men gracing this issue’s pages.
The ‘Elska boys‘ are shot in their homes and in the streets, which in Yokohama meant backdrops of skyscrapers, seafront promenades, and lots of vending machines, convenience stores and concrete! Each of the men also wrote a story to accompany their photo-spreads. The Yokohama issue includes a mix of coming out stories, tales of broken hearts, accounts of not fitting in, and an absolutely epic and almost uncomfortably explicit confessional essay about a student’s affair with his much older professor – it’s one of Elska’s most memorable pieces of any issue to date! With those personal stories and a photographic style that is sort of documentary-meets-pinup, the result is a very intimate reading experience.
Elska Magazine is sold in over thirty-five retailers worldwide and is available to order online. Issue (09) Yokohama is available in a classic print version or in a tablet/iPad version for download. A list of stockists and details of the subscription service can also be found on the Elska website: www.elskamagazine.com.