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

Diversity in Israel... with Jorge H from Elska Haifa

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As I mentioned in the 'Editor's Welcome' in our main Elska Haifa edition, part of the reason I chose Haifa over say Tel Aviv or Jerusalem was because it was said to be a more normal and diverse city by Israeli standards. Aside from the majority Jewish population, Haifa has large communities of Arabs and people from former Soviet republics. When I was there I also recall seeing small communities of Ethiopians and Armenians, but although I spoke to a few from these groups, none of them were interested in being part of Elska. Well there was one Ethiopian guy but he was a little bit too flirty for me to handle... got to stay professional, right?!

Anyway, during Elska Haifa Shoot Week we ended up meeting lots of Jews, Arabs, and 'post-Soviets'. But aside from them there was one other not from these groups... It was Jorge, originally from South America and with a mix of Latin and Dutch heritage. He ended up being the person who helped spread the word about Elska more than anyone else, opening the door to a good number of the men on these pages. And when some of these men were a bit behind on submitting stories or just generally procrastinating, it was Jorge who pushed them.

Perhaps it was because he was a bit of an outsider, able to remain neutral when befriending people from other backgrounds, that meant he had such a large contact list. Or maybe that's just part of who he is, a sociable and loyal person who makes friends and holds onto them. In any case, Elska Haifa owes a lot to Jorge. Thank you!

Disorientation... with Rik Besselink for Elska Haifa

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In most Elska editions, we feature one or two editorials submitted by other photographers from other cities. We call these features 'Elska Dehors' because they are 'outside' (that's what 'dehors' means in French) of the main city of the edition's focus. For Elska Haifa, we had so much material from the Haifa guys that I was determined not to include anything for 'Elska Dehors', but when Rik Besselink contacted us and sent over his submission, I couldn't resist squeezing it in. 

Rik is, like I used to be, a flight attendant with a background in photography. Travelling around the world, no matter how tired we were when arriving at our hotels, we'd get our cameras out. I'd go online to find local guys to shoot in my hotel room, while Rik was doing self-portraits there. Or at least that's what he was doing for this project.

When you're cabin crew, certain emotions are common, which is apparent in these images, including loneliness, bewilderment, exhaustion, and longing. His work really takes me back to a difficult time in my life, but one which led to me leaving to start Elska. It is in times of complete disorientation that you have the most determination to find meaning, to find yourself, and to find a path for the future.

See more from Rik at www.rikbesselink.com or pick up the Elska Haifa edition for the full editorial and his story.

Happy 100th Birthday, Finland!

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So today is the 100th birthday of Finland. You know, after it broke free from the Russian Empire. Anyway, it makes a good occasion to order our Elska Helsinki edition, right?

Sadly it just sold out last week and is not being reprinted, but you can still order the download version, or check out our list of stockists to find a hard copy in one of our shops. 

https://elska-magazine.myshopify.com/collections/elska-magazine-print/products/elska-helsinki-finland

Almost gone... Elska Taipei

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Our fifth issue to be published, Elska Taipei was also our first to be shot out of Europe, and it's become one of our most popular editions ever. We've even printed and reprinted it three times since its first pressing, but there's now less than ten copies left.

We will be reprinting Elska Taipei again soon, but in a new reissued version with a brand new cover and loads of new pics throughout, plus an extra boy who had been cut! But for now, if you'd like to get your hands on the original version, this is your last chance.

Head now to our shop to grab one before they're gone!

The Nail... with Dia H from Elska Haifa

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Dia was the third guy shot for the Elska Haifa series. I met him in Wadi Nisnas, a bustling old Arab neighbourhood in central Haifa which became one of my favourite parts of the city. I even returned a couple times after the shoot, once for a proper good kebab, and once for amazing falafel. Anyway, I remember that even though we were meeting at 8am, it was already baking hot, so I was uncomfortably sweaty after the mere fifteen minute walk I had from my room at The Colony Hotel to there. From one look at my face, he grabbed several sheets of tissue from his bag and handed them straight over. I must have looked a total mess!

We started with a little walk in the neighbourhood. The original plan was to later go to his friend's house to shoot some nudes (he didn't want to use his own place because his mum was home), but then Dia suggested we sneak into this abandoned, crumbling building and shoot there. I remembered the joys of shooting in broken buildings, which we did twice when shooting Elska Lviv, so I couldn't resist. 

Inside, the house was a disaster zone, but the light was amazing, so we carried on. But then I stepped on something, a nail, and I felt it go through my cheap Primark trainers and slide between my first and second toes. I couldn't tell at first if it hurt because I was too shocked. All I could tell was that my foot didn't feel wet, so I knew it wasn't bleeding. I considered taking my shoe off to examine more, but with no running water or other way to clean it, I thought it best to leave it covered. So we continued shooting and I considered myself very lucky that it didn't go straight through my flesh.

I thought I was lucky but over the next days I started getting a lot of pain when walking, caused by a nasty blood blister, making it hard to walk let alone shoot. I was kind of freaking out, though I did comfort myself when I checked that the tetanus booster I needed for my flight attendant job was still recent enough. Plus I contacted Semion K, one of the other guys featured in Elska Haifa, who is a doctor. He helped me calm down a lot. 

In the end do I wish I didn't go in that abandoned house with Dia? Nah, some of those shots were truly gorgeous. 

P.S. I chose not to use this space to write much about Dia. The story he wrote is one of the most lovely and thoughtful pieces to grace Elska's pages. So I'll let you get to know him through his words and his images there.

It's Mánudagur...

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It's Mánudagur...
(That means Monday)

And for one day only we're offering 25% off everything from Elska. That includes our print editions, e-editions, exclusive signed art prints, and more. It's our biggest discount ever, but you've only got one day to take advantage. The sale will end at midnight tomorrow.

Just use the discount code MANUDAGUR when shopping at bit.ly/elskashop

Cheers,
Liam

I Love You... with George N from Elska Haifa

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I have to face it. Choosing to put an image of not just an Arab guy but an Arab guy wearing a shirt with Arabic writing on the cover of Elska's first Israeli issue could be button-pushing. But when George told me the word meant 'love', I knew it would have to be the cover. After all 'elska' means 'love' in Icelandic, and that's a pretty good message for a country in need of lots of love between its people. 

However, perhaps due to working a bit too much, I failed to ever actually check if the word on his shirt really did mean 'love'. I don't know Arabic at all, though I'm pretty sure I could recognise the word for 'halal' from all the chicken, pizza, and kebab shops I was surrounded by in London. Anyway, I'd already sent Elska Haifa to the printers without checking. It could have been a huge disaster if it had meant something else!

Finally I checked it, a couple weeks after printing, and it looks like it means 'I love you' rather than simply 'love'. I'm OK with that. After all, 'elska' is  the verb form of 'love'; it's the way you'd write it if you were saying 'I love you'. I suppose it could have been a disaster if it said "fuck you" or something, but I came off lucky I guess!

See more of George N and read his story in our Elska Haifa edition.

Working Me So Hard... with Amir S from Elska Haifa

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Israel took the prize for the place that worked me the hardest. Indeed the Haifa boys were working me so hard that I couldn't wait to go home, no matter how much the gorgeousness of Haifa's mountains, sun, and sea should have convinced me to stay. I just needed to collapse onto my own bed with my camera and computer as far away as possible.

Previously I would have said that Reykjavík was the toughest, and actually they were quite similar. In both cities we shot 22 people and in just one week... but in Reykjavík I had an assistant to help out (thanks Andriy), and in Reykjavík the workload was disproportionately at the beginning of the trip (we shot six guys on the first day), meaning that we still managed a day off to see the geysers and go swimming. 

In Israel I was really looking forward to a day off, and originally had planned two. I was hoping to go to Jerusalem and to see Yad Vashem; and was also hoping to go up to the Golan Heights. But it just wasn't to be. There was no time off and in fact I even did a shoot on the morning of the flight home - that was Amir S. 

The reasons why so many people were shot is mentioned in our Elska Haifa edition, and in greater detail in our Elska Ekstra Haifa zine, if you're curious. I suppose the bright side is that if I didn't shoot so many, I'd not have met guys like Amir. And also, it perhaps gives me a reason to return to Israel, perhaps for an Elska Tel Aviv, or perhaps for a holiday!

Read Amir's story and see the rest of his pics in Elska Haifa.

elska x bat galim boutique hotel

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One of my favourite neighbourhoods of Haifa was Bat Galim, home of the Bat Galim Boutique Hotel which sponsored us for part of stay in Haifa. It was on the shores just down the road from there where I shot Boris L from Elska Haifa, shown above. Still close to the city, there is a peace, a certain disconnectedness, that is utterly seductive.

This part of Haifa feels more than any other like stepping back in time. While other neighbourhoods show signs of modernisation, with shopping malls and chain stores (which in fairness aren’t really that prevalent anywhere in Haifa), Bat Galim is especially authentic.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, this area was populated by the British during their Mandate. On the Mediterranean beachfront here they had a ‘casino’, which wasn’t for gambling but rather a place to drink, dance, play billiards, and socialise. Just a minute’s walk from there along Bat Galim Promenade they had their café. This café has been converted into the Bat Galim Boutique Hotel. It is the place to stay here, the only place really.

Rooms are modern and individually designed with an emphasis on comfort. However most of what you’ll relish about this place is the hospitality, from the homemade breakfasts through to staff who really care about you and have the local knowledge to help make the most out of your visit to this very special part of this very special city.

BAT GALIM BOUTIQUE HOTEL

10 YONATAN ST, HAIFA 35012, ISRAEL

www.batgalim-boutique-hotel.co.il

+972 4 603 7800

Reykjavík Reissued

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Two years ago this week we arrived in Iceland to shoot our third edition - Elska Reykjavík. In just six days we shot twenty-two local guys, and still managed to find time for a swim at Laugardalslaug, coffee and a waffle at Mokka-Kaffi, and a dip in the Blue Lagoon!

Since then we've published a total of fourteen Elska editions in fourteen cities, but our Reykjavík bookazine is still our biggest seller. In honour of this, we've done a full reissue including a brand new cover featuring Haukur G and loads of previously unpublished images inside. Order your copy now from our online shop.

Elska Meets the Men of Haifa, Israel

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The latest edition of Elska was made in Haifa. We had more requests to do an edition in Israel than in any other country, though probably most expected Tel Aviv or even Jerusalem. But why be obvious? Besides, with Haifa's reputation as the country's most diverse and harmonious city, this had to be our destination.

Inside Elska Haifa you will meet sixteen local men, each of whom were photographed throughout their beautiful mountain-meet-seascape city and/or in their homes. Each of their intimate photospreads is then accompanied by a personal story, helping you get to know them even more, as if you were there in Haifa with us as we met and photographed them.

Owing to the city's diversity, our first Israeli Elska features men from various backgrounds - Jews and Arabs of course, as well as some from the city's huge post-Soviet communities and beyond. Some of the stories reveal particular struggles, such as an Arab dealing with coming out to a conservative community, a Jew desperate to make it through his compulsory military service, or a new Russian immigrant trying to fit in. These men do reveal some of their pain, but they share their hope as well. It is this hope that we encountered all over Haifa that makes us so proud of this edition.

Click here to get your copy.

Coming Soon: Elska Reykjavík Reissue + New Cover

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First of all, the image here is pixellated on purpose... 'cos we like a bit of mystery.

Anyway, we have just ordered the sixth reprint of our Elska Reykjavík edition. But this time we've changed a few things, including a new cover and several images inside. 

If you'd like to order your copy, it will be available in about a week so keep an eye on our website for details. However, if you'd like the downloadable e-version, the new version is available now! Oh, and if you'd like the original version, there are literally six copies left, so be quick!

Click here to order your copy!

Two Tonis… with Toni K from Elska Helsinki

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There were originally two people named Toni K on the Elska Helsinki shoot schedule. The guy you see here is the second, but the first Toni K was never shot for the edition.

Toni K-1 was actually the first person found for Helsinki. He wrote to us with just a speculative email saying that he’d love to take part if we ever planned to come to Helsinki. When we did decide to come, he was the first to know and he first to go onto the schedule. However, despite his enthusiasm, I didn’t get a story from him. Then a week before the shoot I sent a reminder but got no reply. I even saw the two little blue ticks on WhatsApp indicating he’d read the message I sent. I'm not sure what happened because...

Read more on our exclusive Patreon blog.

Bogotá Calling

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Hola elskans! We can officially announce that our fifteenth edition will be made in Bogotá, Colombia. It's our first time in a Latin country (or does Portugal count?); it's also our first time in the southern hemisphere (well, not quite, but really close).

So if you'd like to be photographed by us and write a story for our Elska Bogotá edition, send us a message, preferably by email, to elskaservice@gmail.com. We'll be there from 8 - 15 November. 

As always, everyone is welcome no matter where you were born, how old you are, what colour you are, or what size jeans you wear. The only criteria is that you must live in Bogotá.

The Shiest Place... with Elias K for Elska Helsinki

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Elias K was the eleventh guy shot in Helsinki, right toward the end of Elska Shoot Week. As was discussed a bit in the 'editor's welcome' in the main Elska Helsinki edition, this city was the most shiest place so far of any Elska city. Considering that this is the thirteenth location we've visited, that's quite a feat. By the time I met Elias, the eleventh guy shot for Elska Helsinki, there hadn't been anyone wanting to do a nude shoot yet, at least not ethnic Finns (we shot two other nudes in Helsinki, but they had non-Finnish ethnic origins).

OK, so maybe it's not fair to separate ethnic Finns from non-ethnic Finns. Elska has always held the belief that you only need to live in the city to be a local - not that you have to be able to trace your ancestry five generations back to there! However I found it strange that no Finnish-blooded men wanted to bare all, even though they're famous for sauna-ing in the buff. There just had to be a reason.

I tried to investigate, and it...

Continue reading on our Patreon blog...

Chwała Bogu for Poland... with Marcin Z from Elska Helsinki

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In the last Patreon blog entry, I wrote about how Helsinki was our shiest, least nude edition so far. What you may have sensed even if I didn't quite express it there, is that this fact annoyed me. While I do like that Elska isn't completely full of nudes, and while I too enjoy the cultural insight gained from how each editions' nudity levels vary, I do want a certain minimum of nudes. Why?

Continue reading on our Patreon blog...

elska x hotel katajanokka

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Eddie showed up outside my hotel with a load of bags. I assumed he was just really over-prepared for our shoot, but then he said, “Hey, can I leave these in your room for a while? My new place isn’t ready yet.” It turns out he’d just gotten off an eight-hour bus ride from his home village to Helsinki, and he was here to stay.

Wide-eyed and excited about this new chapter in his life, I invited him in and showed him around. He wouldn’t stop pausing to take pictures on his phone: the fortress-like brick wall built around the hotel, the expansive vegetable garden outside the restaurant, the strange and cavelike basement nooks, corridors adorned with imposing metal gates, and everywhere old photos that told you the history of this place. Between 1837 and 2002, Hotel Katajanokka was a prison.

Its past is treated with respect and isn’t used as a gimmick. The transformation was very tastefully done, decorated in that exquisite Nordic way that balances plush with minimal; luxe with understated. Rooms are well-equipped and the wifi is the fastest of any hotel I’ve ever stayed in anywhere. Oh, and some rooms even have personal saunas – something I’m sure the old prison cells never had, not even in Finland!

So Eddie and I hung out for a while and then went out to shoot. There’s a tram stop literally in front of the entrance that takes you to the city centre in just three stops... in case you’re too tired to walk the ten minutes. But we opted to stay on the island, checking out the marina to the north, watching Russian tourists disembark from ships at the port to the south, and then stopping at a farmers market to the west. From there we walked back to the hotel, took a few more pics inside the room, and then enjoyed the punnet of fresh Finnish strawberries we’d just bought. Perfect!

Hotel Katajanokka, Merikasarminkatu 1, 00160 Helsinki, Finland

WWW.HOTELKATAJANOKKA.FI