Image

(The Quiet Ones… with Luke C from Cardiff)

Luke was one of the most up-for-it of the Cardiff boys. He was the first guys we found (I think on Instagram), the first we scheduled to shoot, and the first to send in his story. He also really helped spread the word, inviting two guys from his circle – Robert G and Henry C – to be part of the Cardiff issue. He was also super kind, recommending locations for shooting and even offering to drive us around in his car. 

But when we finally met in person he was so quiet – perhaps nervous, perhaps shy, perhaps just slow to warm up to new people. Initially when confronted with such quietness, I worry that the shoot won’t work, that the guy will be frozen, devoid of expression and incapable of movement. But in front of the camera, Luke was at ease. It’s like that typical artist thing where person is timid only until the spotlight shines on them. Personally I hate being the centre of attention, but if you put me on stage, all the worry drifts away. And when we got back to Luke’s place for the naked shots, he was even more at ease. 

I also felt like Luke and I might have a lot in common. A look around his flat and seeing the books and art he had and hearing the music he played while we shot made me want to know him better. But I felt like there was some barrier. That’s why more than anyone else in the Cardiff issue, I’d like to shoot him again. As much as he let go in front of the camera, I really think he could let go more. We see Luke in the issue for sure, but there’s another level of Luke that was unreachable. I want to try again.

See more of Luke C and read his story in Elska Magazine Issue (07) Cardiff

Advertisements
Image

(Being Bored, Being Boring…with Bruce B from Cardiff)

I don’t remember how I found Bruce. My inkling is that he responded to a post I put up on social media looking for Elska boys. What I do remember was that he was one of the most keen to participate, having sent in his story and locked in a shoot date and time a whole month in advance. He told me he’d done some life modelling recently and was quite open to nudity, so it was definitely the indoor nude shoot he wanted to do. No problem with me. After all, how many other mags feature a male nude anywhere over the age of perhaps forty?!

I met Bruce at Llanbradach station, in a valley town half an hour from Cardiff. He picked me and my assistant up in the car and took us home. He apologised instantly for his house, which to me was quite a lovely, well-kept bungalow; but which to him wasn’t a place he was proud of. He didn’t really go into detail, but he mentioned once having quite a lot of money and somehow losing it. I guess he used to have a much grander home, but in any case compared to my flat in London, it was impressive enough!

Bruce B, at 75, is the oldest guy we’ve shot so far for Elska. And I got a feeling from spending time with him that he’s the kind of guy I’d be at that age, ‘cos he’s not really ever going to be ready to stop. Retirement? What’s that?! Yes, I think he did officially retire, but it wasn’t long until he got bored and took on a job as a personal trainer. Then it wasn’t long after that ’til he started to get into all sorts of hobbies, such a getting naked in the name of art. Perhaps some people look forward to sitting at home to knit jumpers and watch daytime TV, and even I do a bit. But I know that in reality I’d get bored fast. I could feel the energy from Bruce, like he was bursting to do more and more and more. That’s how I want to be. There’s nothing worse than being bored, or than being boring. And Bruce is far from either of those things.

See more of Bruce and read his story in Elska Magazine Issue (07) Cardiff

Image

(My Cardiff Crush… with Radek P from Cardiff)

For the past two issues I’ve done a “My Crush” blog post, so I figured I should do one for Cardiff too. The trouble was that in Cardiff I liked everyone (well, maybe not every single person), so it was hard to single out anyone in particular. But since I gave myself the challenge to make a tradition of the “My Crush” post, I decided to give the “honour” to Radek.  ​​

It was actually a bit difficult to crush on Radek since his partner was there with us during the shoot, and well, mine was there as well assisting. But perhaps in a way this fact made it easier to feel at ease with him, because there was no tension, no awkwardness, and indeed I felt really comfortable with him. I even stayed on after the shoot for a coffee, something that’s actually quite rare.We also had a lot of things in common. First of all, he’s rather overeducated, particularly with regard to foreign languages, which meant we could talk about stuff that most people roll their eyes at in boredom. He demonstrated his Welsh knowledge, I blurted out my rudimentary Portuguese, he spoke a bit of Polish, and I taught him how to write his name in Georgian. Oh, and he also had a Polish poster on his wall which impressed me no end (if you haven’t ever checked out Polish movie poster art, you’re really in for a treat).​​

And then there was something more personal we had in common. He knew it what it was like to arrive in a new country, feel very at home and then suddenly feel uncertain of his place there. For someone who calls Britain home but wasn’t born in Britain, the Brexit vote had a profoundly depressing and confusing effect. We both thought we lived in a progressive, inclusive, and open country, and we were proud to be part of that. Brexit shattered that and forced a division in society whereby we’d need to discover who’s who, i.e who is for Remain, and who wants us to get the hell out of the country. Such divisions are of course not ideal, but at best they bring some of us together, fortunate to find each other and take solace in our shared points of view.

See more of Radek and read his story in Elska Magazine Issue (07) Cardiff.

Image

(The Elska Disaster… with Dan P from Cardiff)

On the sixth day of Cardiff shoot week the worst thing that could happen happened. My computer broke. I was in a café at the St David’s Centre waiting for Wes S to arrive for his shoot, turned on my laptop to upload the pics from the previous shoot of Bruce B, and it wouldn’t fully boot up. A little image of a file folder with a question mark superimposed on it flashed on the screen. This wasn’t good. 

​​I headed over to the nearby Apple Store and begged for help. Then I left the macbook with them as I left to shoot Wes S, trying to hide my panic. By the time the shoot was over I already had a Genius messaging me to return. There was nothing they could do. It was beyond repair and the files were inaccessible. He recommended a file recovery service in Penarth, so I headed straight there, handed off the dead laptop and hoped, but it would be a few days until I got any answer. The problem was that I hadn’t done a backup since Shoot Day 2, and there were eight Elska boys shot between then and the disaster. 

I only had three days left in Cardiff, hardly enough time to shoot the few guys I had remaining plus replace the eight I’d lost, but I was going to try. I wouldn’t abandon the Cardiff issue, so onto the gay apps I went to try and find some willing soul to help out.

It worked. First I found Dan P who seemed a bit shell-shocked at what he was agreeing to do, but he was apparently feeling brave. Usually these last minute searches yield poor results, since there’s no time to build a rapport between the boy and Elska, but with Dan, it was easy. I really liked him and if I lived in Cardiff I think I’d like to be his mate. Actually I kinda do want to live in Cardiff. I got on with the guys here better perhaps than the boys of any issue. Their friendliness definitely helped ease the pain of losing a computer.

In the end, the data was saved, at huge expense that practically wiped Elska out, but I can only hope that Elska keeps growing, the the Cardiff issue and beyond sell well, and that the future is filled with lovely guys like Dan who make the hard parts easier to cope with. 

See more of Dan P and read his original story in Elska Magazine Issue (07) Cardiff.

Image

(Elska x Cathedral 73 Cardiff)

I arrived early in Cardiff, too early to check in to my hotel, so I found a café in the neighbourhood to wait and work in. Brød, an authentic Danish bakery was my bliss; but not wanting to outstay my welcome with one coffee for hours I moved on, next stumbling across Lufkin Coffee Roasters,  hidden in a Pontcanna alley called. How was Cardiff out-hipstering Shoreditch? I moved on toward the hotel, stopping to peer into an estate agent’s window, half thinking about leaving London for Wales.  

And then I arrived at Cathedral 73 Hotel. It felt like I was home. I had been expecting an old school B&B but it was thoroughly modern, stylish, sumptuous and fully worthy of the boutique hotel monicker. I didn’t expect to get such a spacious room either, complete with separate bedroom, huge bath and even a full kitchen (perfect for baking a frozen pizza after a very full day of shooting). Then a proper Welsh breakfast in the charmingly period restaurant in the morning was all you could ask for.

Of course I had to do a shoot here too, and I even ended up photographing three guys at Cathedral 73, a couple just for fun, because I was so comfortable here and the light was too seductive. This is absolutely where I’ll stay if I ever come back to Cardiff, and I’m sure I will.

CATHEDRAL 73 HOTEL: 73 CATHEDRAL RD, CARDIFF, CF11 9HE, CATHEDRAL73.COM, +44 29 2023 5005

Image

(Ég elska velsku…with Ceri V)

‘Velska’ – that’s the Icelandic word for Welsh, which is coincidentally so close to the name ‘elska’, which is the Icelandic word for ‘love’.  And I do love Welsh. The accent has always been my favourite of the accents of Britain, but when I got to Wales and actually heard people speak Welsh, I was truly smitten.

Ceri V was the first guy I met during the search for Cardiff boys who was a native Welsh speaker. I secretly hoped I’d find at least one guy for the Cardiff issue who spoke Welsh and would write their story in Welsh, but of course I wouldn’t force it. It’s important to me that Elska be spontaneous rather than curated, so I wasn’t going to do a “Welsh Speakers Wanted” advert no matter how cool I thought it would be to have an issue full of Welsh stories.  

In South Wales, English is by far the main language and you rarely hear Welsh spoken on the streets. In Cardiff only around 20% speak Welsh. Still, even at those levels, that adds up tens of thousands of Welsh speakers in Cardiff plus more in the rest of the country, particularly in the north and west of the country. That makes the Welsh language the strongest of all the Celtic languages. Irish, Scots Gaelic, Manx, Cornish… these aren’t doing so well at all. While some of those languages indeed have many speakers, only Welsh and Breton have a very high number of NATIVE speakers. Even if over a million people can speak Irish, only around 50,000 were raised with it as their mother tongue. For Welsh, the number of native speakers is over half a million. 

Anyway, when I arrived at Ceri’s place, he was actually sitting in the living room writing his story on paper. He apologised for not having written it yet, and quickly scrawled it down as I set up for the shoot. When he finished he tore off the paper and handed it to me. Later when I got home I tried to type it up it but I couldn’t make out his writing at all, especially difficult because the Welsh words just looked like jumbles of random consonants. So I got one of our Twitter followers, Jack Murphy, to help out. He deciphered the writing, fixed the spelling mistakes (sorry, Ceri, you’re not the best speller), and did a translation. Thanks Jack!

In the end we got three guys who wrote in Welsh. Out of sixteen guys, that represents almost 20%, so the statistics about Welsh in Cardiff are correct, at least in our Elska ‘research’. By the way, if anyone in London fancies giving me some private Welsh lessons, let me know. I’m up for it. I just love how it sounds.

See more of Ceri V and read his story in Elska Magazine Issue (07) Cardiff.

Image

(Inside Cardiff Castle… with Jack S)

Jack S met us at our hotel, Cathedral 73, and the plan was to shoot outside in the neighbourhood (Pontcanna) and then do some shots inside the room. But when Jack arrived he had another idea… “If it’s alright with you, I thought we could shoot in the castle”, he said.

I assumed he meant ‘at’ the castle, not ‘in’ the castle, meaning outside it, in Bute Park with the castle as a backdrop. So I asked him to clarify. “It’s ok, I can get us inside. I’ve worked there for six years. It’s no problem." 

I was pretty sure that lighting would be tricky, so we might get some grainy pictures (I wasn’t gonna bring flash equipment inside as we’d have to keep a low profile and stay out of the way), but I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to get inside a castle. So we took the ten minute walk to the castle and we entered through a back door, up a steep and cramped spiral staircase, and found various rooms to shoot in, waiting for tour groups to vacate them so we wouldn’t disturb anyone.

On more than one occasion we were spotted though and fiercely shouted at by security and one particularly angry tour leader as to what we were doing and who we were. Usually this happened when Jack was hiding in a cupboard changing clothes. "We’re with Jack” I’d cry, then get excused with a sort of look that said they were dying to cart us off in handcuffs just for some rare excitement. 

When we got back to the hotel, the lighting was superb, sun streaming in through the many windows, and the picture quality was all the better for it. But the castle pics were just too special which is why they take centre stage in the main mag. The indoor ones were lovely though, and I wanted to show them, which is why Jack S got an Elska Ekstra e-zine to his name. Definitely this experience was a highlight of Cardiff shoot week, really unforgettable. Thanks, Jack!

See more of Jack and read his story in Elska Magazine Issue (07) Cardiff, available at www.elskamagazine.com