Elska, a series of male photography and culture books where each is shot in a different city has dedicated its latest edition to Brussels. As both capital of Belgium and of the entire European Union, it’s a real melting pot of people, and this issue of Elska showcases a wide range of local men and local stories, opening up readers to new perspectives on real gay lives and expanded definitions of beauty.
Inside Elska Brussels, the reader is introduced to fifteen local men, shot on the streets of their city and in their own homes, dressed in their own style or sometimes not dressed at all. Then, accompanying each of their photospreads, is a personal story, letting you get to know them at a deeper level. The result of the personal stories and honest style of photography is an experience that is intimate, revealing and quite beautiful. The goal is to invite the reader along to each Elska city, where they can see the town, meet the guys, and get to know them a bit.
Brussels makes for Elska’s twelfth edition, following a roster of cities that has spanned the globe, from well-known LGBT tourist hotspots like Berlin and Reykjavík, to less well-known locations like Mumbai, Istanbul and Taipei. All of them are approached in the same way, with a commitment to spontaneity and honesty, inviting all types, races, ages and identities of men to participate but without tokenism or trend-following. Everyone is welcome; no one is rejected.
“After all the recent rise of right-wing politics around the world, such as with Britain’s Brexit, with Trump’s election, and with anti-immigrant sentiments across the world, I wanted to take Elska to a place that is supposed to be about unity” says Elska founder and chief photographer Liam Campbell. “If there’s anywhere where all sorts of different people should feel they have a home, it’s Brussels, heart of the European project. It’s something that I really believe in. After all, we in the LGBT community should know what it’s like to not feel we belong, and we know what it’s like to search for a home. I saw a parallel with our lives and with what the European Union is supposed to be about, and I wanted to explore it.”
Indeed a few of the men in Elska Brussels chose to write their stories about identity and belonging. But as usual the stories are quite varied. They include Jules B’s ‚how I met my boyfriend‘ story; Morgan P’s tale of self-acceptance and coming out to himself; Quintin H’s invitation to look inside his autistic mind; Jian Kiang L’s confessional on living a life of constantly struggling to impress his strict parents; and Nizo M’s piece about his adoration of the one and only Madonna. Oh, you may be able to spot bits of Belgianness in there too, like mentions of chocolate, beer, waffles and frites!
Elska Brussels is 164 pages and is available in a classic print format or in a electronic download version for tablet/iPad. A list of stockists and details of the subscription service can also be found on the Elska website: www.elskamagazine.com.