Foreign Tongues... with Jean-Bosco M from Elska Cape Town

Something just wasn't right when I read Jean-Bosco's story. It's not that the text was terrible, but it revealed he wasn't good at English. I had no idea. In retrospect it should have been obvious he wasn't a native English speaker with a name like Jean-Bosco, but when we first met (online) I only knew him by his profile name "Makoto".

When I started reading his text, I quickly saw him mention being born in Congo, so I figured it might be appropriate to message to him in French. He responded back in fluent French and so I decided to ask him to please rewrite the story in French. He quickly did, and what came back was perfect. I always tell the guys they can write in whatever language they're most comfortable in, and we'll worry about the translation, but I never offered this to Jean-Bosco 'cos I never knew he wasn't an Anglophone. Our previous messages online were only brief and so he was able to use an online translator... but that won't work for a full story.

Later, once we met in person, even though his spoken English was actually quite good, I thought it would be fun for me to conduct the shoot in French. My BA degree is in French but I only rarely get to use it these days. So as I walked over to meet Jean-Bosco for our shoot, I loaded up my phone with French tunes and practiced over in my head those terms I'd learned when shooting Elska Brussels: "addose-toi" [lean], "lève le menton" [raise your chin], "accroupis-toi" [crouch down], and of course, "déshabille-toi" [take your clothes off]!

It's such fun to speak in foreign tongues. That's why I hope one day I can shoot in the countries that are home to the other two languages I've studied... Russian and Georgian. Maybe one day.

Pick up a copy of Elska Cape Town here: bit.ly/elskacapetown

Elskan means Darling

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I like to affectionately refer to Elska readers as 'elskans', an anglicised plural version of the word 'elskan' which means 'darling' in Icelandic. Like Gaga has her monsters, Kesha her animals, and Kylie her lovers, we have our elskans. 

Sometimes our elskans like to send in selfies with their favourite issues of Elska. Like this one from someone who wants to be known as "horny customer." Well thanks, Horny Customer. Keep them coming!

And if you're an elskan who'd like to send in an elska selfie, send it to elskaservice@gmail.com.

Meet Us at LA Drag Con

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Following the success of Elska at Drag Con NYC last year, we'll be hosting another table at Drag Con LA this year. So if you're in the area, come see us at Booth 12

We'll have a selection of our print mags, postcard sets, and dozens of signed and matted prints made exclusively for Drag Con customers. 

And if you're a fan of the Squirrel Friends Cocktail Hour podcast, Nick Kochanov will be helping us all weekend at our booth. He may have a bit of SFCH swag for you all, so come say hi!

Allir Elska Berlin [Everybody Loves Berlin]... with Raphael K from Elska Berlin

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This week we ran the sixth re-printing of our Elska Berlin edition, meaning there's now more copies of it in the world than any other Elska issue. Although technically Elska Reykjavík is the best seller when you include download copies, Berlin is the hard copy king. And really, Elska is best enjoyed in its classic printed form.

So how come everybody loves Berlin? I know that when I first went there at the tender age of nineteen, I wasn't totally in love. But I was an innocent sort of kid. Imagine Blair St Clair but with chest hair. I remember going to a random gay bar and being genuinely shocked to see porn showing on the TVs. And then when I went to go find the loo, I instead found a dark room filled with roaming hands and slurping sounds. It was of course not just a dark room but a darkroom, and honestly I never heard of such a thing before. But I could get into it!

Over the years I returned to Berlin a few more times, and discovered that the debauchery I'd found previously was nothing. One memorable night of Elska Berlin Shoot Week involved me going to lab.oratory where a friend and I hung out totally naked at the bar, drinking and chatting. I still have my innocent side though - I never dared to wander off from the bar area into the adjoining rooms, too scared I might slip over on a jizz-slick and slide into some sort of fisting accident. I was however tickled to see, when I went to the toilet, that some of the urinals were replaced by a couple of portly men sat on the floor with their mouths agape. For the record, I used a "normal" porcelain-style urinal. I was just too unsure about the etiquette surrounding the use of a human pissoir.  

So I don't know, maybe Elska Berlin is so popular because people are expecting more of the naughtiness that Berlin is famous for. But what I discovered when shooting Elska Berlin was that the local guys are as boring as anywhere else! Most guys I met don't spend their evenings at sex parties. Rather they're home watching TV, hanging out with friends, or maybe getting a bite to eat. The wonderful thing about Berlin isn't that it's depraved, but rather than you can find depravity if you want it. I don't want to make a wall analogy, but there's a great sense of freedom here, where all different kinds of people can come together and be themselves. As in Berlin, everybody is welcome in Elska, so it really is a perfect Elska city. 

Elska Berlin is 152 pages and contains photospreads and stories from fifteen local men. Grab a copy of it from bit.ly/elskaberlin

Especially keen... with Jono B from Elska Cape Town

The first day of Elska Cape Town Shoot Week was meant to be quiet. Getting to South Africa involved two eleven hour flights with a very long layover in Istanbul sandwiched between. I'd arrive in the evening and then wanted the next day to be easy-breezy so I could cope with the jetlag and just relax a little. So Day One of Shoot Week had only one session booked - with Phijo S - and it was booked for midday so I'd be able to have a long rest in the morning. 

But during the shoot with Phijo, as he got to know me and the Elska project a bit better, he decided that it was something he really wanted to spread the word about. As soon as I left Phijo I started getting messages from his friends asking to take part. Unfortunately most of my week was full with other bookings, but I did have that afternoon to offer. One guy, Jono, was especially keen, and he offered to leave work early so we'd be able to meet for the last hour of sunlight.

I love when Elska guys come to the project like that - willing to do anything, to shoot anywhere, to dress in anything, whatever. That was Jono, totally up for it,. The only problem was that I wish we'd got in contact earlier. Then I'd have been able to offer him a longer session, with the possibility to do more shots in more locations, and the time to plan a few more looks. But hey, I'm just glad we got to have Jono at all, and I love what we managed to do together.

The Racist Incident... from Elska Cape Town

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This sort of thing isn't easy to talk about, but when Elska's two values of honesty and positivity clash, I always opt for honesty. And honestly, I was worried before I got to Cape Town that I wouldn't like the place. The legacy of apartheid was still heavy twenty-five years on, at least in my mind, making most of my ideas about South Africa tainted with racism. 

To my relief, my experience making Elska Cape Town was not what I'd dreaded, and the men I met seemed committed to a fair and just present and future for all residents of their country. However, that isn't to say that race is no longer an issue, and a few of the men wrote of it in their stories, but at least for me during my visit to the country, racism did not overwhelm my experience. However there was one racist incident, and sharing it here I believe provides a good example at how endemic racism can be, so ingrained that one might not even recognise it as problematic.

So I was doing a shoot with someone who I will not name, and we were just wandering around his neighbourhood looking for locations. One of the most enduring memories of Cape Town Shoot Week was that people would often interrupt our shoots. Sometimes kids might ask for a photo with the 'model', or a few ladies would come over to fix the subject's hair or adjust his shirt, or a group of teenage girls would tease the subject about how good he looked. But when a coloured boy ('coloured' is the South African term for 'mixed race') interrupted this subject to ask what we were doing, this subject fobbed him off in an almost aggressive tone. He spoke in Afrikaans so I can't tell you what exactly he told the boy.

We walked away, and as we left the subject told me, "these people are so uncivilised." He carried on, elaborating on "these people", describing with contempt how differently they behaved. Now it is true that whenever I encountered 'jovial interruptions' in Cape Town (like the girls teasing the subjects), they came from black or coloured people, never from apparently more reserved white residents. But to term such social variances with a word like "uncivilised" is upsetting as it characterises 'them' as 'lower' or 'beneath' rather than simply 'different'. 

One of the things I've learned from making Elska is how different yet all the same we are, and how any differences do not separate us but just make us more interesting. Perhaps he just didn't see it that way, or perhaps what he said was just a habitual reaction that he didn't even notice as problematic. I won't comment too much though as in fairness two weeks in Cape Town making this issue was not long enough for me to make a proper assessment of a complex society and history, but it is clear that tensions still exist in South Africa.

Ultimately I very much enjoyed making the issue and am proud of it, even if it is also by far our lowest selling issue out of sixteen Elska cities. Perhaps the dramatically lower sales are related to a larger amount of men of colour in its pages and an endemic racism in the gay community ('gaycism'), but that's another topic for another time. 

On that whirlwind of a day in Harlem... with Ian S

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About eight months ago my husband had an interview in New York and I decided to tag along for the day. I drove, and since I knew it was free and easy to park in Harlem, we put the car there and then he took the subway downtown and I planted myself in a coffee shop on 145th Street. I brought my laptop to do editing work, and I also brought my camera, just in case.

I was in the mood to shoot, so I turned the apps on. I messaged basically every guy on the screen, introduced myself, and said that if they were up for it, we could shoot today. I ended up shooting six guys that whirlwind of a day in Harlem, all located within a ten minute walk of my location. also asked each of the guys to tell a story, which I recorded on my phone, 'cos it wouldn't be very Elska without a story to go with the pics. One of those men I met was Ian S

The thing is, I kind of got distracted afterwards (I was putting finishing touches on Elska Brussels) and sort of forgot about all the pics I took. Crazy, right? Anyway, yesterday Ian messaged me on Insta saying, "Hey, didn't we do a shoot last year?"

"Sorry, Ian, I somehow totally forgot." So here's one of those pics. I'll put the rest along with Ian's story in the next issue of Elska Ekstra, out in early May. I promise I won't forget this time!

Wank Mag Selfie... an Elska Selfie from Daniel and Drew (Super NSFW)

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So, you know, sometimes we get pics of guys with their copies of Elska. Sometimes they’re in a relaxing reading pose. Sometimes they’re doing a little nude pic with the Elska laid next to them or in the background. Or sometimes they’re standing in a shop smiling as they hold their new purchase. And then there’s this one, not like any Elska selfie we’ve ever received, sent in from Daniel & Drew.

I kinda don’t know what to say about it, but I figured if anything, Tumblr would be the place to post it. Christ knows I can’t put it on the Elska Instagram or FB page. Or hmm, how about some guerilla marketing campaign where I litter some city with these printed as posters? Could I go to prison for that? There’s laws on “decency”, right?

Anyway, most of all I wonder what Cenk Y, the guy on the cover of this Elska Istanbul issue, would think. I hope he’d be flattered. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to tell him or not, but maybe he watches our Tumblr.

Dedicated to Regis Trigano.

Alasdair McLellan and the D on the Cover... with Jason W-P

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It was a few months before Elska began, I had a day off, and I decided to cycle down to Fuckoffee on Bermondsey Street in London. I was just hanging out, drinking coffee, and leafing through fashion magazines that people had left behind there. One of these mags greatly inspired me.

I don't remember the name of the magazine but it was something rather mainstream like i-D, and the editorial was shot by Alasdair McLellan. It was an autumn season spread featuring guys in warm, autumn colours. On one page was a lad wearing just a jumper and nothing else, his dick out for all to see. I didn't know you could do that in an editorial, and I didn't know you could show full frontal in a "regular" magazine. What impact it had. I wanted to do an editorial like this, and I even wanted to buy the jumper. Seriously.

The editorial made me see the scope of photography differently. It was key to the inception of Elska, a mag that would have nudity but without relegating it to the top shelf. In my photographic training, I certainly learned the rules, but I only truly got excited by the art when I found that I could break them.

For Elska Cape Town when I was shooting Jason W-P, that moment in Fuckoffee came back to me. There I had him in his warm autumnal jumper and nothing else. It was an Alasdair McLellan flashback moment. I fell in love with the pics we took, especially the one you see in the main mag with him laying on the floor, dick out and eyes looking into the camera (the one above is a "safe-for-work" cat-censoring outtake). I very nearly considered using the nude version for the cover, but everyone told me not to. Maybe you can show dick inside a mag, but you can't put a dick on the cover! Well, maybe next time!

Perth Shoot Week Update no.3

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The second part of Elska Perth Shoot week is based at The Goody House, a B&B run by a gay Swedish-Aussie couple. In the middle of what's been one of the most packed schedules of any shoot week, the warm and intimate welcome received here was so needed. After host Pär-Johan showed me my room, we started an impromptu Swedish lesson (this is the epitome of fun to me), where apparently my pronunciation was really good, though I kept doing the vowels Icelandic style. Then he sort of 'strongly encouraged' me to put the camera and computer down for a bit and get into the pool. But I do have some preliminary image edits I could be doing.

Yesterday was ridiculously hot. Shooting Nathan T even as the sun was getting towards its descent was super uncomfortable, sweat dripping down our faces, with one of his t-shirts to wipe his brow and the strap of my camera to wipe mine. And before that it was even hotter while shooting Aaron A. For some reason I thought it was a good idea to climb up four sets of stairs to get "a nice view", but once at the top we were both feeling kinda gross. 36 degrees is a lot when I'm the kind of guy who thinks 21 is hot!

So yes, I think I won't kill me to get into that pool. Maybe I'll even lock the camera and computer away for a day or two. Getting the final Elska Perth product to you by the first week of May is a little ambitious, but a couple days off won't hurt. 

Perth Shoot Week Update no.2

It's now day five of Elska Perth shoot week and I've just finished shooting the sixteenth guy. Yes, it sounds like a lot, especially when there's still more left, but every moment in a city is a chance to meet a local guy and shoot him. Plus there's other more sensitive reasons why more are being shot than usual, but I'm not sure I want to get into that. But as much as I'd love a side trip to Rottnest Island to meet the quokkas, I'm really just a boring workaholic. 

Anyway, this morning started with a shoot at King's Park. A bunch of guys suggested shooting here but I resisted because a park can look like any city. But there are however a couple things that make this park Perthy looking. First is the skyline view (which is perhaps a bit like a postcard cliché) and the other is the extensive planting of indigenous flora. So I decided to go along anyway, and it was a lovely place. 

After that I went to a funny sounding suburb called Innaloo and then nearby to for the next shoot. This setting most closely matched the image I had in my head of Perth before I came - single family homes, slightly scrubby lawns, wide roads, and lots of roundabouts. The guy I shot there was awfully shy though, and although I tried my best to make him laugh, I won't know until I see the images if they were a success. I really hope so though - a guy wearing a vest / tank / singlet on a dry suburban street sounds like a perfectly Perthy pic and a potential cover to me. The photos are uploading now, so soon I'll know.  

Two more days to go, and then two months until you meet the men of Perth.

Perth Shoot Week Update no.1

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Elska Perth Shoot Week is about to enter its second day, and I'm here at the gorgeous Aloft Perth hotel having a gorgeous brekkie. By some stroke of magic, in an otherwise busier than ever schedule, this morning's subject cancelled (cold feet I reckon), which means I can watch episode six of Rupaul's Drag Race All Stars live (it airs at 9am in Western Australia). 

Then after that it's off to the city centre (I think they might call it CBD here, like they do in Cape Town) to shoot Jordan G. We're meeting at a doughnut shop called MOP. I glanced at the website and told him it looks like they're doing Portuguese style doughnuts, and he's like, "I'm half Portuguese and I don't know what you're talking about." Anyway, then it's off to shoot Jesse D at either Cottlesoe Beach or Leederville (he keeps having new location ideas). Then it's off to shoot Andrew S at his home in Subiaco. 

As for yesterday, it was a day of the letter 'm'. First it was Martin A at his home in Guildford, then Matthew K at his in Lathlain, and then Martin D down in Fremantle. Honestly jetlag was a real killer (there's a thirteen hour time difference) so the whole day was kind of a blur. Mostly I remember Matthew's awkwardness (it's in an endearing way), his tales of the Perth gaymers club, and the shots we took of him laying on his bed with Dungeons & Dragons strategy books in the foreground. Let's hope I'm less of a zombie today and I can give more details later!

Just arrived in Australia...

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Just arrived in Australia, the longest journey ever, so feeling more than ready to crash onto this bed (which belongs to the fabulous Aloft Perth by the way, Elska's home for Perth shoot week). 

First on the agenda was to unpack, then shower, then take a few snaps, then reconfirm schedules for tomorrow's shoots, and then to post a pic from the hotel on Instagram. 

Skip to one minute later and the DMs start rolling in, one from a guy saying he's a huge Elska fan, his message accompanied by four fully naked pics. He then adds, "I know my dick is weird but I like it." It was perfectly nice by the way, not weird at all! "But technically our Perth shoot schedule is full", I told him, "but I'll let you know if there's a cancellation." 

Anyway, if you're interested in taking part in Elska if we come to your city, fill in the form at elskamagazine.com/beinelska 

Elska welcomes you to Cape Town, South Africa

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Today is the release of our latest Elska edition, set in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s our sixteenth issue, but our first to be made in Africa, and we're excited to present it to you.

Among African cities, Cape Town is unique in its demography, being home to a majority mixed-race ('coloured' in the local parlance) population, plus large communities of blacks and whites. The fifteen men featured in the issue reflect this multiethnic make-up, and in the stories they wrote, some discuss racial issues, which are exist some twenty-five year after the end of apartheid. Cape Town is then also the gayest city on the African continent, serving as a magnet for queer people across the region, who can live freer here than anywhere else. Some of the stories also touch on this, revealing how special this place is in Africa. 

Also available is our companion e-zine, Elska Ekstra Cape Town, where you’ll find behind the scenes tales, extra pics of three guys from the main mag, plus five additional guys and stories not published elsewhere.

Please visit our shop to order: bit.ly/elskacapetown

Short but sweet... with Dan G from Elska Bogotá

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The shoot with Dan G was short but sweet. In fact it was perhaps the quickest shoot ever done for Elska, but we were very lucky to get any time at all with him. You see, Dan's a very busy guy, often travelling. When we met he'd only just arrived back from a trip to Cuba the night before, and then he was straightaway off to catch a flight to another Colombian city for work. 

I honestly didn't know what to expect. Based on all his travels, I assumed he'd be in his late forties or fifties, probably wearing a shirt and tie, fitting my image of a frequent business traveller. I certainly didn't expect this blue-haired guy who answered the door when I arrived at his flat. Nor did I expect someone so relaxed and open - he was rather keen to get undressed for the camera, which turned out to be the case with nearly everyone we met in Colombia!

As we shot and chatted, we saw that we both love to travel. I'm sure we'd have been able to talk all through the night about our favourite places if we had time. Hopefully I'll run into him again one day, somewhere in the world, just to hang out and chat. In the meantime however he can travel with me via reading Elska, and we can travel with him through his blog.: dangamboa.com. It is all in Spanish, which I don't know, but I can happily look at the pictures at least!

The Only Bogotano with No Story... with Felipe C from Elska Ekstra Bogotá

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Usually with every Elska edition, there's a few guys who never send their story. It's an essential part of the deal, and although I try to get stories before shooting (and cancel shoots if I don't get them) sometimes one's excuses or pleas sway me. Fortunately in the Bogotá series, only one Bogotano didn't send a story, and that was Felipe C.

A few days before our shoot, I reminded him about the story. He said he was busy at university and had exams coming up that he wanted to focus on. Still he promised to send it. Then the day of the shoot came and even though there was no story yet, I decided to go anyway. We did our pics and I gave him a further two weeks hard deadline, practically on my knees begging him.

I was glad I did the shoot at the time. I got to see a very real sort of neighbourhood, an area called Tibana where tourists would never go. It was mostly residential, with a tidy high street with shops for locals and a small park. At the time I arrived the streets were quiet except for little compact crowds of people dotted along each bus stop, heading to work. His house was also very interesting, a tall but narrow building where each of the four floors housed different members of the same family. Felipe and his dog were up at the top, with access to the roof which we used for our nude shoots.

On leaving I had the feeling that I might not ever get a story. It's a lesson I've learned time and time before with Elska. So in the end he wasn't published in the Elska Bogotá edition, though his images are in Elska Ekstra Bogotá, our companion e-zine. It's a shame we couldn't get to know him a bit better, but at least you can see him there.