Elska Magazine celebrates its five year anniversary this month. Since its incepRon, Elska has become known for its showcasing of real queer bodies and real queer stories from around the world, and for honoring diversity of all kinds through its combinaRon of inRmate photography and honest storytelling.
So far Elska has published twenty-nine issues, each focused on a different city and its LGBTQ community. This has included some ‘big gay ciRes’ like Berlin, London, and Amsterdam, as well as lesser-known or less visible communiRes like Dhaka (Bangladesh), Istanbul (Turkey), and Manila (Philippines). The variety of places that Elska is dedicated to focusing on forms part of its mission to reveal how different types of bodies and stories are equally beauRful and compelling. Unlike much of tradiRonal media that privileges only certain types of people, you’re unlikely to see celebriRes or models on its pages, nor will you receive fashion advice, daRng Rps, reviews or gossip, because Elska believes that ordinary lives are just as worthy of our a_enRon.
“Before I started Elska I was trying to make a career in fashion photography, but I was constantly disheartened by how terribly people behaved towards each other in the industry, especially the way models were treated”, says Elska editor and creator Liam Campbell. “So I decided to do something on my own, where I’d go to a city, meet and photograph a bunch of random local men, share a few stories, and print them in li_le books. I would let anyone who applied take part, rejecRng no one, and not telling anyone what to wear, how to act, or what story to tell. At the Rme I knew that this method was an unusual way to make a magazine, but I also had faith that there was an audience out there who would share my vision, who wouldn’t have an insRnct to divide and rank people.”
“IniRally there was some pushback when the first issues came out” conRnues Liam. „We received some comments saying these men were ‘nothing special’, ‘not hot enough’, or that there were ‘too many Asians’, ’too many fat guys’ or ‘too many skinny guys‘! But rather than get discouraged or to try to appeal to ‘standard‘ ideals of beauty, or to focus on one parRcular ‘gay tribe’, I let it fuel me to carry on. Eventually the negaRve comments faded, replaced instead by posiRve, hearfelt ones. Today, I am touched that every week we receive mulRple messages from readers who express how much Elska means to them, how seeing these ordinary men showcased on our pages makes them feel more confident, more beauRful, and more opRmisRc about their own communiRes.“
Although Covid-19 has made 2020 a challenging year for Elska as well as for all independent queer media, due to some advance pre-Covid shooRng, the previous issues this year and the next one were all made before the crisis began. Going forward, while heeding travel restricRons and health advice, the hope is that the coming year will include issues made in Australia, Europe, South America, and beyond.
Elska is sold in select shops around the world and is also available for order online. Its flagship product is its print magazine, a format that allows one to really spend Rme with each of the men featured inside, beauRfully made and collecRble like an art book. In addiRon to the classic print mag, there is also a downloadable e-version and a range of behind-the-scenes companion zines called Elska Ekstra. A list of stockists and details of the subscripRon service can be found on the Elska website, www.elskamagazine.com.