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(A Fashionable Skin Condition… with Luke K by luke kurtis)

Have you noticed how one particular skin condition has become rather fashionable? I’m talking about vitiligo, which causes pale, white patches on the skin due to a lack of melanin. It’s the same condition that Michael Jackson had, which he covered up by bleaching the rest of his skin white to match the patches. It’s also the same condition recently made pratically trendy by model Winnie Harlow, who rather than cover it up, carries herself proudly. However undeniably beautiful she is, it must have taken a lot of courage to step out into the very public gaze the way that she has.  ​​SMLXL But what about other skin conditions? Are some skin problems uglier or prettier than others?  When luke kurtis first sent his submission of self-portraits, I at first didn’t notice his psoriasis, but as I scanned through his collection, it caught me more and more. Like vitiligo, it also causes patches, but rather than white, they are red and dry. Here he was, exposing himself fully, and he was beautiful.

But try to imagine him with his clothes on. Imagine you meet this charming, handsome man in a bar, take him home, get intimate and then see his skin. Would you be instantly turned off? Quite a few people are, he told me, and that’s kind of the idea that attracted me to his images. There is no hiding. Everything is there to see, “flaws” and all, so you can make your instant judgment. If you’re cool with it, step forward; if you’re curious, ask him about it; if it disgusts you, then bugger off. 

See more of Luke K and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (06) Istanbul

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(I Live In A Water City [Bir su şehrinde yaşıyorum ben]… with Serdar S)

I had a great time meeting Serdar. We had a lot in common and had a lovely tea after the shoot chatting about travel and even the possibility of him coming with me for a future shoot week. But as I’ve said before, Istanbul was the most difficult issue so far in terms of getting the boys’ stories on time. I reminded them, including Serdar, but the deadline passed. In the end, I got his story on the day that the issue went to the printers. With just a few hours before the final deadline, I couldn’t have squeezed him, especially since the translator we used for our Turkish texts had a three day turnaround. I was really sad to lose Serdar from the issue, but here he is and here’s the story he wrote… (in Turkish, so copy and paste into your favourite online translation site).

Bir su şehrinde yaşıyorum ben: iki kıta üstüne kurulmuş; Avrupa ve Asya; her tarafı denizler ile çevrili. Süprizlerle dolu bir şehir, ve bir o kadar da gizemli. İnsan’ına da ilhan verir; yaşamaktan keyif alıyorsanız eğer, ödüllendirir sizi. Üstünden çok zaman geçti, ama bu şehrin bana yaşattığı, heyecan ve keyif dolu bir anı paylaşmak istiyorum.

30 yaşımda gerçek kimliğimi yeni yaşamaya başladığım yıldı, 1998. Yazın son günleri, bir tatil günü; ve ben onunla tanıştım; aslında bir hayat arkadaşı vardı; ama bana belli ki bir sıkıntısı vardı; mutlu değildi; ben ise çok toydum; utangaçtım. Aynı mekanda vakit geçiriyor, sürekli kaçamak göz göze geliyorduk; ama yaklaşamıyorduk bir adım ile. Bir hafta sonra telefon ile eriştik birbirimize. Buluşmaya karar verdik. Buluştuk Hisarüstü’nde akşamüstü saat 7 gibi. Benim araba bindik; konuşmuyorduk; ama bedenlerimiz bir mıknatıs gibi birbirini çekiryordu. Ben arabayı Boğaz Sahil yoluna sürdüm, Emirgan, Yeniköy, Kireçburnu… ve Belgrad Ormanı yolu… oradan Kilyos plajları… En sevdiğim, özgür hissettiğim yerlere götürdüm onu. Önce salaş bir balıkçı lokantasında o gün tuttuğu taze balıklardan bir akşam yemeği yedik. Kilyos kumsalındaydık, hafif ve serin esen rüzgar bizi birbirimize yakınlaştırdı; kol kola, sarıla sarıla yürüyorduk. Güneşin batışa doğru.

O geceyi Kilyos plajında, araba içinde sabahlayarak geçirdik.

Sabah gün ağırıp, güneş günün ilk sıcaklığını hissetirmeye başladığında, oradan ayrıldık.Buluştuğumuzda kapattığımız cep telefonlarımızı açtık. Her ikimizede üst üste mesaj geliyordu; 20 ye yakın cevapsız arama, telesekreter mesajları. Anlamıştı hayat arkadaşı; ve ortak dostlarımız bizim beraber olduğumuzu.

Çok güzel bir geceydi, sade, saf ve özel. Ama, acaba onu bir daha görebilecekmiydim?

Arabasını benim evimin oraya park etmiştik. Eve varmak üzere Rumeli Hisarı’na yokuşu inerken, arabayı sağa çekip, durdurdum. Onu belki de son bir kez öpmek istiyordum. Doya doya. Dudaklarımı, dudaklarına değdirip, sarıldım. Sabahın o erken saatinde bir araba geldiğini duyduk; araba babamın arabasıydı. 

Read and see more in Elska Magazine

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The Fastest Shoot Ever… with Yuchi P

It was around 9am and I was having breakfast at my hotel when I got the dreaded text from Yuchi P: “sorry, I’m running late.” A few back and forth replies determined the delay to be a whole hour, which started to worry me. My next shoot wasn’t until 4pm, but this was my last day at Corinne Hotel and I needed to check out at 12. If we were only planning an outdoor shoot, I’d pack up and leave my stuff with the front desk, but Yuchi also wanted an indoor shoot. ​​SMLXL  So I had another coffee and carried on downloading the Gio D shoots from the day before. Then another text came: “traffic is really bad today”. Bugger! 

In the end, he arrived at 11:40. Yes, I could have asked for a late check out, but Corinne had been so kind to me that I felt it would be taking advantage to ask. So there was nothing else to do but bang it out. Yuchi came up to my room, I got the camera out and told him to get naked. He had no inhibitions whatsover and got to it. 

How did he do? Great actually. How did I do? Less than great. There’s a too many shots without proper focus and a lighting situation that required a bit too much post-production work. So twenty minutes is too fast for me.

The outdoor pics were better, but even then it was less than ideal since the sun was exceptionally bright. Had Yuchi come at 9am, we’d have shot with the sun nice and soft and then gone up to the room for the nudes. But these things happen. It’s why, more than anyone else in the Istanbul issue, I’d like to shoot Yuchi again. And I suppose it gives me an excuse to return to Istanbul, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

See more of Yuchi P and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (06) Istanbul

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(Turkish Hospitality… with Ibrahim T from Istanbul)

The first guy shot for the Istanbul issue was Ibrahim T, and it was quite a schlep that first morning to his place. It involved a twenty minute steep walk to Kabatas Port, a ferry over to Üsküdar on the Asian side, and then a taxi ride.  When I got to Üsküdar I first tried Über, but I could only find one driver nearby, who after fifteen minutes of waiting, cancelled the ride. So I had to get a public taxi, and as I feared, he didn’t know a word of English. So I phoned Ibrahim T, handed the phone to the driver, and then we were off. 

Midway he pulled over to buy some gevreği (Turkish sesame bagels). Initially I thought it was a bit annoying (that’s my impatient always-rushing London mindset kicking in), but I was quickly turned around when he offered me one. I can’t imagine any London cabbie sharing a snack. 

When I got out of the taxi, Ibrahim was just crossing the road to meet me. He welcomed me with a kiss on each cheek, and then we walked to his place, where his mother was quickly offering me food too. Having filled up on a dense bagel, I declined, but she was incapable of not giving me something as a welcome, so she made me tea. She then proceeded to chat to me in Turkish while Ibrahim was packing some clothes for our shoot. Even though she knew I didn’t understand her, it didn’t stop her nattering on. The only thing I could make out, helped by colourful body language, was that she was trying to tell me that she thought her son was too skinny. Quite sweet really.

After the shoot, we came back to Ibrahim’s place where his mum had prepared a snack for me – mercimekli kofte. This is a sort of meat-ball shaped patty made from ground lentils and bulgur wheat, heavily spiced and absolutely delicious. I thanked her in Turkish (‘thank you’ being one of the only Turkish words I knew), but she wasn’t done. Just as I was about to leave she handed me a take-away box of several more patties. So this is Turkish hospitality. Such a wonderful welcome for the first day of Istanbul shoot week.

See more of Ibrahim T and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (06) Istanbul

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(Announcing New Elska Collectible Cards)


To honour the end of the first year of Elska, we’ve put together a 21-piece set of collectible 5×7 (A6) photo-postcards. Each is dedicated to one Elska boy from the first six issues of Elska. Stick them on your fridge, frame them, use them as bookmarks, coasters, or whatever.

From now on, every single issue of Elska Magazine will include one Elska Card randomly inserted between its pages. Collect them all, buy the whole 21-card set for just £7.50 (plus shipping), or get a deluxe subscription and receive the set as your free gift!

The Elska year one Card set includes…

from (01) Lviv: Sasha K, Eugen K, Marko K

from (02) Berlin: Diego S, Raphael K, Emil T

from (03) Reykjavík: Friðrik Á, Kyle B, Jono D, Haukur G

from (04) Lisbon: Julien P, Daniel T, Matheus G

from (05) Taipei: Gemi Sakinu Z, Temelalj C, Walter J, Owen C

from (06) Istanbul: Yuchi P, Efe B, Ekin K, Can A

Buy the card set:

https://elska-magazine.myshopify.com/collections/elska-swag/products/elska-collectors-card-set-year-one

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(Missing Istanbul Boy No.1… with Ali K)

I met Ali on one of the gay apps on the second morning of Istanbul shoot week. I proposed the idea of him taking part, and he was open. He certainly didn’t know what Elska was and even at the time we met, I’m not sure he’d taken the time to check it out. He just fancied meeting up, trying something new, having a sort of adventure.  ​​SMLXL So we met that same afternoon by Üsküdar port on the Asian side of Istanbul. We walked along the shoreline to his place, which overlooked the sea and Maiden’s Tower (where a crucial scene of Bond’s ‘The World is Not Enough’ was filmed). It was an apartment way too big for him, and most of it was empty of furniture. I don’t think he felt settled there, and indeed after talking he revealed that he recently moved there from the European side, feeling more at home there and nearer to friends and entertainment. But Istanbul as a whole didn’t feel like home to him. He was wanting somewhere a bit smaller and a bit closer to the beach. By the time this is published he could already be gone. 

Ali K wasn’t published in Elska Magazine Issue (06) Istanbul. Some of the others were cut because they didn’t submit stories on time, but Ali did submit a story, but it was just too short. I asked him to add a bit but he ignored my request. I think that indeed he didn’t really want to be in Elska. He just was bored that day and thought a photoshoot could be fun. It’s a shame, but these things happen.

Anyway, if you would like to read his story, I’ve posted it below. Sorry, I haven’t had it translated though – no point spending money on a translator for something that won’t be fully published, but you can always do a cut+paste into your favourite online translation site… – Liam C.

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Bazen tarihi yarım adaya bakarken evimin balkonundan durup durup hayallere dalıyor kız kuleine baktıkça orada kimler tutsak edildi diye düşünürken, istanbulun muazzamlığı beni farklı hayallere götürürken sonra bir anda kendime geliyor ve diyotum… ben buraya mı aitim yoksa köklerimin derinlere daldığı incim izmirime mi aitim? bazen nefret bazen sevgi sanırım Istanbul… ama her ne olursa olsun Burda farlı yasamlar farklı insanlar insanın ufkunu acıyor.kendime daha cok baglanıyorum farklı hayatlar tanıdıkca.iki yakada da yasamak bana daha cok sey kattı avrupa tarafındaki kalabalığı keşmekeşi Asya yakasındaki sessizlik mutasıp hayatla değistirdim..mutlumuyum? bilmiyorum.ama tek bildiğim birsey var bende cok sey aldı bu şehir(Istanbul)…kültürümün  adetlerinden nefret ettiğim Kadar bazende seviyorum ve inadına yasıyorum..Garip ama sanki kültürümü terkedersem kendimi terkedicem gibi hissediyorum..sanki bana kalan tek güzel set bu gibi.ama bilmiyorum işte..ilginc bir paradox içindeyim..ama yinede herseye rahmen seviyorum bu hayatı.. – Ali K.

See more and read more from the other Istanbul boys in Elska Magazine

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(Writing Is Easy, Isn’t It?… with Selim B from Istanbul)

People often tell me how lucky I am to do this job, to travel and photograph men… and although it’d be nice if it actually paid a salary yet, I agree with them. I’d rather be poor and do something I love than rich and miserable. But money isn’t the biggest worry. The toughest obstacle is getting the boys to write.

For Elska, the ‘local stories’ are as important as the ‘local boys’. When I approach a guy to be in Elska, I let him know that he needs to write a 400 word story from his life in the city, written in any language. Once I get the OK, we schedule the photoshoot. Occasionally he will write the story before we meet, but sometimes it’s hard to find guys far enough in advance to give them time to write. I like to give them a week or two, but often the deadline passes with no story sent.

For every issue there have been guys cut because they didn’t send a story, but there’s always been enough ‘extra boys’ to fill the pages. And some cities are worse than others. With Berlin, Reykjavík, and Taipei, only one didn’t write. With Lisbon it was five. Perhaps it’s that old stereotype about southern Europeans being lazy, but whatever the reason it’s a nightmare. Selim B is one of five Istanbul boys who didn’t write.

But what I don’t get is that writing is easy, isn’t it? I’m always saying this to friends and nine times out of ten they disagree. So maybe that’s the problem, that I expect it to be easy for others what is easy for me. I should try to accept this and deal with it but I don’t know any other solution than to shoot even more guys with the expectation that perhaps 25% won’t write and I’ll have to not use the photos. Which is a shame.

The most worrying thing of all is that the city meant to be Issue (07) is missing so many stories that it may not be able to come together as an issue at all. It’s already being postponed and I’m trying to organise an “emergency” shoot week to make a replacement issue. There’s still time to see if it can be salvaged… I’ll let you know!

See and read from others in Elska Magazine issue (06) Istanbul