How Could I Leave Costa Rica Without Buying Coffee?… with Adrian Morales for Elska Magazine

After my shoot with Adrian Morales (See our previous post on him: “In a Country of Nature is a City Without”), I had some time to kill before the next shoot, and he invited me back to his place for some proper Costa Rican coffee. We sat in his garage which had been turned into a sort of partially open-air lounge and ate some cakes that his mum made a few days earlier.

i am a certified coffee addict. If I don’t get a cup by noon I start getting a headache, and in the past year I’ve gone to needing a minimum of two cups to function. I suppose there are worse habits to have. But the most embarrassing thing was that in this Costa Rican trip I’d gone to Starbucks twice. Blame laziness – I didn’t have time to seek out alternative cafés and when I drove past it on my way into the city, I couldn’t help driving straight there come morning when I needed my hit.

On both occasions, the café was really quiet despite being in a bustling location with a great outside terrace. It seems that Costa Ricans aren’t too happy with this place. Not that Americanisation isn’t already huge there – besides the usual McDonalds and KFC that you get in most countries, they had everything from Pizza Hut to Popeyes. Really I don’t think it’s an issue of globalisation but one of Starbucks not offering enough beans sourced from Costa Rica. In a country with great economic stakes in coffee production, why would people support drinking coffee made by Indonesian or Kenyan farmers?


Anyway, Adrian brewed the coffee in something that looked very handmade, a sort of wooden board with an executioner’s hook from which hung a pair of used ladies’ tights. The coffee filled the tights and then hot water was poured through. It was quite sweet and I wanted one. He said I could get one in the market, but I didn’t have time, so maybe I’ll throw away my electric one and build one of these. Or maybe I’ll buy one\next time I’m in Costa Rica. Oh did I mention that I’d like to go back? Yes, well it bears repeating. Elska Magazine Issue X?X in Costa Rica!

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I Dreamt of a Man… with Vyacheslav K for Elska Magazine

“I dreamt of a man / He fed me fine food / He gave me shiny things”. It’s one of the lines from the PJ Harvey song “Plants and Rags” that inspired this shoot with Vyacheslav K for the Lviv issue of Elska Magazine. But it’s not the line I went with for the title of the shoot. That was “The sun doesn’t shine down here in the shadows”. But why this old song at all?

When I first saw this apartment where I’d shoot Vyacheslav K, the array of pot plants caught my eye and rather literally I started thinking of songs with “plants” in the title. Rather simple and uncreative perhaps, but the mood actually suited the situation very well. Furthermore, he wanted to be nude but not fully exposed, so they made a more natural cover than clothes or a hand or a crop.


Vyacheslav is a hopeful young man, expecting perhaps more from life than he’s been getting, but maturely accepting his fate day by day whilst not yet abandoning hope. It’s a song that to me is rather macabre but still dreaming, like this lovely Ukrainian boy. There’s a sadness that I hope will fade with maturity, as well as a freeness that I hope no one can take away from him.

See more of Vyacheslav K and also read what he wrote for us in Issue (01) of Elska Magazine, available in select shops or online at

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Florence and the Tourist / Shooting in Cemeteries… with Michał G for Elska Magazine

I met Michał at my friend and fellow photographer Emre’s house. I was helping him unwrap a load of expensive lighting kit and assisting him with trying out his new kit for the first time. Michał was his model, someone who’d not done modeling before yet was a total natural, extremely photogenic. So when Emre was done I asked if I could photograph him too. I just asked him to tell me his favourite artist so I could maybe use some of that music for inspiration. His response was Florence Welch.

I spent the next few days until we’d meet listening to the back catalogue of Florence and the Machine. Eventually I decided on “Blinding”. The line that jumped out was “a tourist in the waking world, never quite awake”, so I chose to meet at a cemetery in Battersea/Wandsworth.

Have a listen on Spotify to the gorgeous song:


Cemeteries are tricky places to shoot because even though they’re absolutely beauty, there is a cautiousness and respect that needs to be adhered to. So no big smiles, no overtly sexy pouts either, just natural, sombre, and thoughtful. And you need to be careful to not get any actual mourners caught in the frame. These are peaceful places, so we want peaceful faces and peaceful sounds. It’s perfectly Florence and perfectly Michał.

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From the Streets to Fashion and then towards Elska… with unnamed news seller for Elska Magazine

How did Elska begin? I get asked this question a lot and the answer is that it was a process. A little over a year ago I started a job as a flight attendant, both because I wanted to travel and because I wanted to do more street photography. I thought of perhaps going down a photojournalism route, but as I did more and more shoots on the streets, I realised that it was people that impassioned me most of all.

I would walk around a city, such as one of my favourites in the world, Buenos Aires, with my camera in hand. I’d snap away at anything or anyone that caught my eye. The man in the image below, shot from outside the door of a random newsagents in San Telmo, is an example of how I started to move away from street photography and photojournalism toward what we do in Elska. Looking at him, I can see a story, who he is, what he’s thinking, what he’s all about. The background is important to the story, but it’s all about him. Even though I don’t know anything about him, there is something evocative.


Eventually I started shooting particular guys rather than random ones on the street. At first it was of a fashion photography style, but there were elements of street photography that I missed, particularly the soulfulness and authenticity. I tried to combine aesthetics from fashion and editorial photography with the candid and documentary style of street photography. This is what I’m aiming for with Elska.

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The Flora of Java and a Naked Englishman… with Joshua J. for Elska Magazine

I’d always had a geeky fascination for horticulture. One of my childhood dreams was to run an exotic fruit orchard somewhere in the southernmost parts of Florida, or perhaps Hawaii or even Thailand. Perhaps it’s why I like travel so much. As a kid who never holidayed anywhere that a car couldn’t take you, and certainly never had been abroad, I longed for something different.

When my grandparents moved to Florida, I spent a summer with them and helped my grandfather design and plant his vast garden. The nurseries were full of plants I’d never seen before, such as bananas and lemons (by the way you’ve never lived if you haven’t smelled a citrus blossom). In one nursery we picked up a book called All About Citrus And Subtropical Fruits. It’s still available on Amazon:

asongofseeds-collaged-8I read that book over and over and started searching for other such books. In a library once I saw an antique copy of the 1880 book Fleurs, fruits et feuillages choisis de la flore et de la pomone de l’Ile de Java by Berthe Hoola van Nooten. It’s full of beautiful hand drawings of what must have then been never-before-seen fruits in the Western WorldYears later I found a PDF copy and used images that I superimposed with nude photos of Joshua James Hutchings, accented with folliage.

I also recall buying an album by Kate Bush called The Red Shoes more because its back cover was a collage of tropical fruits than because of the songs. I also bought it on vinyl so the picture would be bigger! One of the songs on there was “Eat the Music”, and its line “A Song of Seeds” was the title of this series with Joshua James Hutchings.

The image above is a drawing of the rambutan, a Southeast Asian standard with a hairy skin that peels back to reveal something like a cross between a grape and a pear.

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Але Тілу Хотілось Гріха (But My Body Wanted to Sin)… with Sasha K for Elska Magazine Issue (01)

Usually the inspirations for shoots come from songs I’d been listening to in the weeks prior to heading to a new location, but the song that lended itself to this sexy shoot with Sasha K. only entered my head the night before. My friend Matt, who was staying with me in Lviv, had Ukrainian MTV on and a rather cute, cheeky track called “Meine Liebe” by ТІК came on. Despite its title in German, it was sung in Ukrainian. Neither languages are my forte but I wanted to use the song, so I hoped that somewhere in the lyrics there’d be something appropriate, something that could lend itself to a visual-photographic story.

After putting the lyrics through a translator and getting Matt to proofread Google’s work, the line that struck me was “Серцю дуже хотілось любові, aле тілу хотілось гріха” [My heart so wanted to love, but my body wanted to sin]. Perfect. I wasn’t quite sure how I’d use the line, but I’d find a way.

(By the way, check out the video here:

web_elskamagazine_boys-1When I began the nude shoot of Sasha K, after he stripped his clothes off, I kept focusing on the crucifix dangling around his neck. Even when you strip a man naked, the cross remains, as if it’s just as much a part of his body as his hair or skin.

Now I don’t want to suggest at all via the lyrical title of the shoot that Sasha is in any way sinful. Certainly nudity is as beautiful and natural as anything, but there are others who see it differently. There are those people who consider nudity as absolutely connected to sex, and therefore almost automatically as connected to sin, e.g. via fornication, pornography, what-have-you. But really it’s a bit of a playful title, not a political or ethical statement.

Perhaps it does make you think, but the truth is (and I’m not afraid to give up notions of artistic grandeur) that I chose this line because I wanted to include this sweet song on the Elska (01) Lviv Mixtape. And it was that cross next to Sasha’s naked body that reminded me of that particular lyric.

See more of the Sasha K. shoot and more of Lviv in Elska Magazine Issue (01), available in select shops or online at

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All the Kids Want to Boil His Bunny… with Rica Shay for Elska Magazine

There’s something about being on stage that is utterly sexy, no matter what it is you’re doing up there. You can be knitting socks and reading chapters from Ecclesiastes, and people will still be flooding their basements.

When I first saw Rica Shay, it was doing a rather avant garde (or just bizarre) rendition of Peaches’s “Mommy Complex”. He was writhing around alongside Ellen Degenerate, him the baby to her mommy. At one point there was a costume change to a pair of nappies, and later she was spanking him in black shorts.

You can, by the way, watch the video here: 


Nowadays Rica’s rather more polished, his new self-penned music especially, but his Peachy stage rant was enough to catch my attention and want to see more. The same can be said for the shoot I did of Rica Shay at my flat. He felt comfortable to rummage around my place, grabbing my pink stuffed bunny and a pair of my partner’s pink briefs. I could have followed him and his antics around for days. This guy is compelling.

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