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.

Cover Pressure... with Duv V from Elska Bogotá

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Usually when I make an Elska edition, I try to shoot a potential cover image with each guy and then choose the final cover from them later. The main criteria for a cover is really not so much about the guy but about the setting - it needs to be an outdoor pic and one that is evocative of the destination. But for Elska Bogotá, rather than shoot many covers, I knew Duv V would be my cover guy as soon as we met.

I truly fell in love with the neighbourhood where we met for our shoot, La Candelaria. This is the old colonial heart of the city, full of gorgeous old colourful buildings, narrow cobbled streets, and mountains surrounding it. Then Duv himself arrived super colourful. I knew we needed to make a cover together.

The problem was that the pressure was getting to me. I was trying too hard, and I was getting frustrated, particularly due to all the people around. Like in the image here, it could not be a cover because of the two little girls in the background. Then there'd be another picture with some old boy in the way. The thing is, if there's crowds of people, it's OK - they sort of blur into the background; but if it's just a few in the frame, you notice them, and the focus is distracted away from the subject. 

Luckily we eventually found our way onto a beautiful quiet street. The reason we discovered it was actually so Duv could find a more private place to change his trousers. But as soon as we arrived, I knew it would be the place. So I asked Duv to keep his jeans on for minute longer, and I made the cover!

By the way, there was an image of Germán R-A that was a strong contender for the cover. You can see that image on the back cover of the mag.

En Route... with Matthew W

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It had been ages since I'd seen my friend Veronika, a former colleague from my flight attendant days. While I'd gotten out of it (and started Elska) and moved to Providence, she was still in London and flying. Then she got in touch to tell me she just got put on a flight to Philadelphia and wondered if it was close enough to me that we could meet. I wasn't doing much that weekend so I decided I'd drive down and meet her.

It would be a six hour drive to Philadelphia - not too bad I suppose - but definitely worth a break in the middle. When I saw on the map that NYC was the halfway point, I decided to see if I could find a guy there to shoot. Somehow I stumbled across Matthew W on IG and asked if he was up for it. And he was. 

So I got up at like six in the morning and made my way to Brooklyn. I got to Matte's place right on time (though I hoped I'd have been early so I'd have been able to get a coffee 'cos I was knackered). He was tired too. I think he said something about being out all night with some guy and barely got home himself. Anyway we had a little chat, took some pics, and then it was time to go so I could meet Veronika's flight. Last I heard, Matte was going to move to Japan. Maybe I'll see him there sometime.

Elska Istanbul blowout sale

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We're now about to do a third reprint of Elska Istanbul, which will feature more pages, one new chapter (Sasha B + Tema P), and 25% previously unpublished images. But if you'd like to get your hands on one of our original editions, it's on sale now for 35% off. 

Sale runs until all copies are sold. Order here: bit.ly/elskaistanbul

Elska x W Bogotá

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I knew this place would have caché, considering that the W is one of the world’s top hotel brands, and Bogotá’s W did not disappoint. Everyone I spoke to was very impressed that we landed a room at the city’s top address. Indeed we were lucky to be here and were ecstatic when the W decided to sponsor our stay for the making of this Elska edition.

The hotel is perfectly located in Usaquén, a former village that got swallowed up by Bogotá’s expansion but still retains its old charm, complete with town square and central church. There are also loads of great restaurants, an open-air market, and the city’s most attractive shopping area, Hacienda Santa Barbara, which the W sits opposite. 

Inside you have everything you could want: a spacious and well-equipped fitness centre with pool and sauna, a sexy lounge bar, a restaurant that has Bogotá’s best buffet breakfast, and rooms that are modern and stylish but still totally comfortable. This is not a style-over-substance type of place. Substance is in abundance, including the best bed of any hotel I know.

Later when it came time to meet Andrés for our shoot, a surprise family home visit meant we needed another location for our nude shoot. When I suggested meeting at the W, he frankly was a little too excited. He turned up at his dapperest, wearing his black suit and those big-lensed glasses that he was so proud of. We started with some pics outside the entrance in an epic garden of angled fluorescent beams before we continued to the privacy of our room.

After the shoot he still was so abuzz that he kept pestering me that he couldn’t bear to wait two months for the publication of this edition to see his pics. So Andrés cheekily demanded that I do another series of shots on his phone so he could prove, and brag, to his friends that he just did a bonafide photoshoot at the W. When he sees the final shots here in this book, done on our Elska camera, I am sure he’ll be even prouder, and even braggier!

W BOGOTÁ HOTEL, Av. 9 #115 - 30, Bogotá, Colombia / WWW.WBOGOTA.COM / +57 1 746 7111

The Belgian Connection... with Alejandro R from Elska Bogotá

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Elska Bogotá was one of the first cities where a large percentage of the guys featured came directly to us, either by responding to our calls on social media, or by being recommended by friends to take part. Alejandro R came to our attention via a couple we shot several months prior for our Elska Brussels edition.

Pieterjan, and his partner Nikolas, were a real highlight of the Brussels series. I enjoyed my time with them and wished I'd had more time to spend chatting with them. I really liked Alejandro too, and fortunately for me, weather gave us more time to be social. Right in the middle of our shoot, a big rainstorm hit, so we opted for a lunch break at the Crêpes y Waffles in El Retiro, and there we let the memories of those Belgian boys come flooding back.  

It turned out that we both met the Belgian couple via Couchsurfing. For me, I reached out on that site for a shoot, whereas Alejandro actually wanted a couch. He stayed with them for a while, a friendship was built (I like to pretend that it was a sort of  'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' situation!), and I ended up meeting a great guy who I can't imagine Elska Bogotá without. 

Pieterjan and Nikolas, if you're reading this, keeping sending your surfers and friends our way. You've got a great taste in mates!

Two New Stockists in London & Paris

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We're super excited to announce two new Elska stockists. The first is The Photographers' Gallery Bookshop in London (shown below), one of my favourite personal hangouts.

And the second is the legendary Les Mots à la Bouche (shown above), set in the heart of Le Marais in Paris. Both should have Elska on their shelves by mid next week at the latest. Please show your support for Elska and for independent booksellers. 

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Rediscovering Michael

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Recently when going through Dropbox struggling to free up some space, I found something called "Shared Folders" and found some content that I thought I'd lost forever, like some shots of this chap called Michael who I shot in Clapham, London, a few months before Elska was officially launched. 

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Unfortunately there were many shoots that are lost forever because I only started bothering to back up things properly once Elska was published. Probably there's 30-40 men (and women) missing, but it's great to rediscover Michael.

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On the bright side, there's still 15 Elska editions now, printed for posterity. And maybe one day, probably, we'll do an Elska London edition. Perhaps we'll find Michael again too.

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Elska welcomes you to Bogotá

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Today is the release of our latest Elska edition, set in Bogotá, Colombia. It’s our fifteenth publication in our fifteenth city, but our first to be shot in Latin America, or in the entire southern hemisphere at all.

Inside Elska Bogotá you’ll meet 17 guys, shot throughout this gorgeous city and in their homes, dressed in their own style or nude. In fact, it’s our most naked issue ever, which was not by design — it just seems that Colombians like taking their clothes off! They also seem to like a bit of drama, which is why their stories are some of the most romantic and poetic we’ve ever published.

Also available is our companion e-zine, Elska Ekstra Bogotá, where you’ll find behind the scenes tales, extra pics of 3 guys from the main Elska Bogotá mag, plus 6 additional guys and stories not published elsewhere.

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

Smile... with Hany A from Elska Haifa

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One of the problems I come up against in every Elska city is confusion over our style. The vast majority of subjects we meet have never heard of Elska, let alone seen a copy. Probably they'd had a look at the website and maybe looked around social media, giving them some clue of what we do, but only a vague one. Ideally our goal is to have a casual, authentic approach to style and setting, sort of like a documentary, but many assume it will be like a fashion editorial, very stylised, storyboarded, and contrived. 

It is true that in the early stages of Elska, shoots were a bit more planned out. Elska Lviv, our first edition, made use of specialised locations, interfered with wardrobe and styling, and also employed various artificial lighting techniques. It was the way I was used to working, but as I grew to understand more of what I wanted for Elska, I was able to change. The only thing that really hasn't changed since the beginning was a strong desire to capture something natural in movement and expression, avoiding poses at all costs.

Elska Haifa was particularly tough to make in this regard, with a few guys being very forceful in their desire to control and direct the shoot. But Hany was the most controlled man ever met for Elska. OK, maybe that's unfair to put it like that, but I certainly remember fighting him over his unwillingness to smile, because he didn't want readers to see him that way for some reason. Maybe he thought his smile wasn't attractive, or maybe he was just trying to portray a certain image of himself to the world. 

I tried my best to get him to break, but he was too strong. My usual tricks to get someone to drop their guard (which I am keeping secret) didn't work. All my jokes fell flat as well. And the one time that I did manage to get a laugh, he promptly forced me to delete the photo I'd just taken. When it came time to put together the final edit of Elska Haifa, and considering that some men would need to be cut, I did consider leaving Hany out. However, even if for me it was frustrating, the poutyness he put forth was an accurate representation of him at that moment, and it's his right not to smile if he doesn't want to.

P.S. I did manage to sneak one photo where he cracks a smile, but I didn't publish it. If I had, I'm sure he'd have tracked me down to my home and burnt my house down!

Here's to another year with lots more from Elska

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As another year ends, it's a time to look back on where we've been and what we've done...

- Elska Yokohama - 2017 kicked off with the release of our ninth edition, shot in Japan's second-largest city, Yokohama. For me it was really surprising to see how multicultural the place was, because I'd just had this impression of Japan as a very homogenous place. That's why only a few of the 'local boys' in the edition are actually ethnically Japanese and the rest local residents with varying origins. The issue was also memorable to me personally because my husband came along and assisted on the shoots. Fun!

- Elska Mumbai - In March our tenth issue was released, shot in Bombay, India. When people ask me which was my favourite issue to make, this is usually what I say. The city was just so different to anywhere I'd been before, and as cliché as it sounds, it was genuine sensory overload. The issue is also one of my favourites in content, and it contains what remains to this day my favourite Elska story - "Dear Aaji", by Rehaan D.

- Elska Providence - Our first edition shot in the USA, Providence was chosen simply because I really liked the place, and I even ended up leaving London to move here permanently, partly as a result of impressions made when shooting this issue. When people ask what the best Elska edition is, I tend to go for this one, due to the diversity of men and the overall quality of stories. It's a shame therefore that the print version is out of print, but it really only sold well within the US. Around the world, people were like, "Where the hell is Providence?!"

- Elska Brussels - Our July release was made in the capital of Belgium, and capital of Europe. It's also the land of waffles, frites, beer, and chocolate - all of which I made time to sample during the visit, some accompanied by the guys shot in the edition. It's a really solid issue with a cover I adore, and it's one we've already had to reprint and may soon need to do for a third time.  

- Elska Helsinki - After the success of Elska Reykjavík, still our biggest seller, we thought it would be good to feature another Nordic city, so we took a poll. The winner turned out to be Stockholm, but when costs (mainly accommodation) turned out to be over our modest budget, we went over the sea to Finland, shooting in the city that won second place in our poll. Mostly I'll remember how shy these guys were, a total surprise for a place so into naked sauna culture, and I'll also remember July temperatures in the balmy teens!

- Elska Haifa - Our November release was made in Israel, a country that we had more requests than anywhere else to feature. But we chose not Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, but the country's third biggest city, Haifa. Partly it's because I personally wanted to visit it, but mainly it was because the city had real diversity, which of course we managed to reflect on our pages. The print version is nearly sold out, and it's up in the air if we'll reprint or not. We'll see.

The new year is of course also a time to look forward...

- On 8th January we'll be releasing our next edition, Elska Bogotá, our first shot in Latin America, and our first shot in the Southern Hemisphere. After that, the following two editions will also be shot south of the Equator, but that's all I'll reveal for now. 

Happy new year, elskans!

Liam

Gleðileg jól from Elska!

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Wherever you may be, and whatever you're celebrating (if anything), we hope you're having a lovely few days with some lovely people and maybe a few lovely mags to lazily read while the snow falls out your window. And yes, I know the symmetry's off in this picture, but my brain's focused on a big turkey named Ladybird that I have to get into the oven. Cheers!

Oh, and on a less festive note, any new orders will be sent after 2 January as our warehouse is closed. Probably the postmen and women will be on a go-slow during this time as well. Your patience is always appreciated.  

Firestarter... with Kostya M from Elska Ekstra Haifa

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We were taking a walk just outside Carmel Centre, shooting as we explored, when I came across a sign warning of the danger of forest fires, instructing not to light cigarettes in the area, or to do anything that could ignite a fire. I instantly thought Kostya should do a pic next to that sign, seeing as he was such a hot little firestarter, like he could ignite the mountainside just by walking past it. It would be a sort of tongue-in-cheek image, perhaps for Elska Ekstra because in the main mag some people might take it too seriously. 

It reminded me that usually there are some silly moments caught on camera during the making of each Elska...

Like when we featured Harvey S from Elska Toronto wearing a Justin Trudeau t-shirt with his dick out. (Perhaps I should clarify that it wasn't the Prime Minister who had his dick out, but Harvey rather.) Or like when Davið J from Elska Reykjavík put on his bunny ears (he was doing this way before Louise Belcher ever existed). Or like when Rehaan D from Elska Mumbai thought it would be fun to put on his grandmother's saree. Or like when Mario A from Elska Bogotá wore a cat mask (you'll see that one next month). Elska's not so serious, you know!

Elska Taipei: Re-issued, Re-invigorated

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We first released our Elska Taipei edition in May, 2016, and it's been one of our most popular issues of all. Since that first release, it's been reprinted three times. But when it came time to do a fourth print run last month, we decided to re-invigorate it with a brand new cover (depicting Mine H), an extra boy (that's Justin L), and loads of previously unpublished images throughout.

If you already have our original Elska Taipei, you won't be disappointed to add the new re-issued version to your collection. And if you've never seen Elska Taipei, this new version is better and more beautiful than before. Order yours now: bit.ly/elskataipei 

Another Elska selfie, this one from Gertjan V in Reykjavík

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Sometimes people like to take pics of themselves reading Elska, like this one of Gertjan V and his copy of our Elska Mumbai edition. We’d love to see your Elska self-portraits too. You don’t have to do it naked of course, but we wouldn’t be offended if you did.

Just send your elska selfie to elskaservice@gmail.com.

elska x the colony hotel

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This was the view I’d been waiting for. Set on the grand Ben-Gurion Boulevard, between the sea and the beautiful, iconic Baha’i Gardens, the Colony Hotel is the place to be. When I set the GPS on my car as I left Tel Aviv airport to start my Haifa adventure, I had no idea that I would be led to this most spectacular of settings. It was the most pleasant surprise I could ask for. And I was so grateful that The Colony had offered to host us for part of our stay in Haifa.

In the morning I couldn’t wait to ascend to the top, where I’d shoot Semion K, pausing to look down the slope and pinch myself for being lucky enough to actually stay here. The Colony fits its position in the German Colony, one of Haifa’s most charming districts, perfectly. Inside it suits its location by maintaining a charming historic feel, seemingly unchanged in the last hundred years, apart from the addition of air-conditioning and other mod cons! The furniture is antique yet comfortable, the decor authentic yet irreverent, the rooms ornate but not frivolous. It’s a bit like visiting a historic home museum, but without being told not to touch things!

I should also say that there’s quite a bit of caché to staying here too. All the guys I met knew the hotel and seemed impressed that I was staying here. A couple even came by to visit me – Dia H and Yuval Z – though probably they were more interested in seeing inside the hotel than seeing me! It’s totally understandable though; I’d probably feel the same.

THE COLONY HOTEL

28 BEN GURION BLVD, HAIFA 35023, ISRAEL

http://www.colony-hotel.co.il

+972 4 851 3344