Elska, a project dedicated to sharing the bodies and voices of LGBTQ communities around the world, has put the spotlight on Almaty, Kazakhstan for its latest edition. Inside the beautiful new print bookazine ‘Elska Almaty’ and its companion zine ‘Elska Ekstra Almaty‘, readers can get up close to a cross-section of ordinary gay men through a combination of intimate photography and personal stories.

“Over the past several years we’ve endeavoured to shine a light on LGBTQ communities all over the world, and the way we’ve tried to achieve this is by ensuring a diversity of geography through the cities we choose to spotlight,” says Elska editor and chief photographer Liam Campbell. “One day I was glancing at a map and realised that even after forty-one editions so far we still had this massive gap in Central Asia. I instantly had to remedy this, so I did a consultation of potential cities in the region, and after speaking to some passionate locals who talked of Almaty as the region’s bourgeoning queer beacon, the decision was made.”

“I didn’t know what to expect from the experience,” adds Liam. “All I really knew about Kazakhstan came from the history of the Soviet Union (now over thirty years behind us), or from Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Borat‘ (which offers no genuine insight into Kazakhstan whatsoever), and I had no clue about the country’s gay experience. Such a lack of knowledge only served to fuel my interest though, so I flew to the country’s largest city Almaty in February, met and photographed a bunch of local guys, and discovered Kazakhstan and queer life there through them.”

Inside these new publications thirteen local gay residents are introduced. Each has been photographed in the streets of their city and dressed in their own style, and at home with less clothes (or sometimes entirely without clothes) — with the goal of inviting readers to get to know them at their most open. Each also contributed a personal story, written themselves in either Kazakh or Russian (and followed by English translations) on any subject of their choosing, enabling an even closer connection. These texts touch upon a variety of topics, from stories of falling in love with a closeted celebrity, to chronicles of learning to not just live but flourish as an HIV-positive person, to tales of being a dedicated cat dad who can’t stop growing his feline family.

‘Elska Almaty’ is 196 pages and is available from a select group of shops around the world as well as for order online from the Elska website. In addition, a comparison zine called ‘Elska Ekstra Almaty’ is available, including hundreds of pages of more photography and a full daily diary revealing the behind the scenes experience meeting and photographing these men. The list of stockists and details of the subscription service can also be found on the Elska website: www.elskamagazine.com.