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A little peek inside Elska Magazine issue (02) Berlin… 

Don’t forget that Elska is primarily a print product, something best enjoyed when you hold it in your hands, feel the pages, smell the ink… ahhh lovely! 😍😍

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elskamagazine:

(Cats, Cigarettes, and Hairy Men… with Efe B from Istanbul)

“Cats, Cigarettes, and Hairy Men” – this is the slogan I coined for Istanbul based on my biggest impressions after a week in the city. Not to stereotype, but based on my personal experience, there were a lot of hairy men out there, even if at close inspection, lots of the guys like to shave or at least trim. Also, a lot of people smoked, and frequently enough that a lot of puffing shots ended up in the magazine.  And finally, cats were everywhere, both as pets and in the streets, often photobombing their way into Elska. So indeed the Istanbul edition is the cattiest, smokiest and hairiest issue so far.   ​

More than any other Istanbul shoot, the one with Efe B most closely evoked my impressions of the city. He lived in the Şişli area, a lively neighbourhood full of real Istanbulers, not dominated by tourists. It’s probably where I’d want to live if I lived here, part of a community, bustling and authentic, middle class and diverse. The streets were full of baklava-selling bakeries, greengrocers, dress shops and the like… shops for everyday life . Perhaps it’s why I felt so at home here.

Or maybe I felt so at home because his flat was so welcoming. A huge duplex with multiple rooms that he shared with several flatmates, it was the epitome of youthful cool, a bit like a hippie (or hispter) commune. One flatmate was in the kitchen preparing breakfast (not for himself but for everybody), another was studying for her law degree at the dining table, another was roaming around trying to ready herself for a trip to the beach, and another was spotted laying on his bed reading (gorgeous he was too – I almost asked to shoot him too but lost my nerve). And there was Efe, nonchalantly introducing me as the guy about to photograph him naked – no one blinked an eye. 

We got straight to work, starting in his bedroom, where a cut-out poster of a kissing Charles and Diana was taped to the wall opposite a vintage Blondie poster. And there was a cat, well a few of them, roaming around or napping here and there. After a few snaps he needed a smoke break, one of about four during our shoot. More than any other shoot, I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to rent his spare room and stay the summer. This was the Istanbul for me, and this shoot was the most closely attached to Istanbul too. It was so Efe, so Istanbul, and so me.

See more of Efe B and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (06) Istanbul

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Cops… with Prabhat P

It was the third shoot for the Mumbai issue, and the third time that a cop came to interrupt our work. There was no reason for it, just a case of trying to assert authority, intimidate, and perhaps fish for bribes. In each instance, having a local with me diffused things, and fortunately no harm came, but it was frustrating. Prabhat taught me to just move along if a cop showed up, and to hide my camera when not using it.

When I was a teenager, I was pulled over by a cop for some traffic offense that I hadn’t realised I’d done. When I saw the flashing lights and heard the siren coming behind me, I kept pulling away, changing lanes to let him pass, not knowing he was after me. So when I did pull over, the cop’s anger was high. He wrote me a ticket and gave it to me with a big dose of profanity.

I decided not to pay the fine but go to court instead. The reason wasn’t to argue that I wasn’t at fault, but just to inconvenience the cop by making him attend court. Also, I wanted a moment with the judge and public to call him out for his bad behaviour. The cop was defensive, but the judge apologised on his behalf and slapped him on the wrist.

Since then I’ve not been good with the police, or with authority in general. Lucky for me, this was the last time that the Mumbai fuzz bothered me. One more time and I probably would have lost my cool and ended up writing this from an Indian jail instead of on my comfortable sofa with a cat purring on my lap.

To see more of Prabhat P and to read his story, pick up Elska Magazine issue (10) Mumbai (India).

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Why we chose Bombay… with Saif G

As we come to the end of April, with a new Elska edition a week away, I wonder if we’ll ever get back to India for another issue. I certainly would like to return, but if we did , what city would be choose? To answer that, I’m going to go into why we chose Bombay in the first place and what other cities were considered.

1) Delhi – This is the city that most foreign tourists end up in, partly because it’s near the great Taj Mahal, and partly because its sister New Delhi is the country’s capital. But during our research, time and time again people told us that Dilliwalas are awful people – rude, arrogant and exceptionally superficial. I’m sure it’s an exaggeration and perhaps even plain wrong, but it was enough to put me off.

2) Calcutta – I’d always been intrigued by the Bengali capital. Perhaps it’s due to my Catholic schooling where every day we were asked to pray for the Pope and “Mother Theresa and the starving people of Calcutta”. Seriously, it was only ever those two my church focused on! Anyway, the feedback I had was that it’s an amazing city, but not one recommended for your first time in India due to the extremes of life here… so it was put on the shelf.

3) Pune – I actually got contacted by a boy in Pune wanting to be in Elska Magazine. I kinda fobbed him off, saying that I’d consider it if he could find some more boys to take part. To my surprise, he did. But even though 2 ½ million people live in Pune, I didn’t think that even a fraction of readers would have heard of it, so I rejected it for the sake of marketing ease.

4) Amritsar – Just when I was almost sure that Mumbai would be the choice, one of the boys who would be photographed for the issue almost swayed us away. Why? It’s ‘cos he said that the most beautiful men in India are from Punjab, and its most beautiful city is Amritsar. I was certainly intrigued, but with a small population (by Indian standards) of under a million, it seemed a risky choice. Plus, with nearly all of India’s actors and models from this rather light-skinned state, we’ve probably already seen enough from Punjab.

5) Mumbai – As the biggest Indian city, it seemed like a safe bet that we’d be able to find enough guys to participate here. Indeed two of the guys in the issue, Anzie V and Saif G, came to our attention before we even decided to come to India at all. With two guys under our belt before we even started looking, I was excited. So for those of you thinking it’s a waste of time to ask us to come to your city, know that we definitely listen to your requests, and like with Mumbai, we may even follow through.

To see more of Saif G and to read his story, pick up a copy of Elska Magazine issue (10) Mumbai (India).

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elskamagazine:

Reunion… with Ekin K and Emrullah T from Istanbul

On the way to shoot our upcoming issue (10), I stopped in Istanbul for a few days – I was flying Turkish Airlines anyway and the ticket was actually cheaper with a stopover, so why not?!  Anyway, whilst there I met up with Ekin & Emrullah, two of the lads from our Istanbul issue, in a café near SuB Karaköy Hotel. They were the first gay couple to ever get married in Turkey, and the first couple shot for Elska. It’s always lovely to see the Elska Boys again, since generally once I shoot them, I figure I’ll never see them again. Perhaps one day I can have a reunion, a nice round-the-world trip to revisit the cities and the boys… but that’s years off!

See more of Ekin K & Emrullah T in Elska Magazine issue (06) Istanbul (Turkey)

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Yokohama is not Tokyo, but Tokyo is close… with Zhi L from Yokohama

A big part why I chose to make an issue of Elska in Yokohama was specifically that I didn’t want to feature Tokyo. I think Tokyo is great but it’s too obvious, and also too big. Trying to squeeze a city like that into 160-ish Elska pages is madness. So in the end I went for Japan’s second biggest city, Yokohama.

The problem is that Yokohama is only an hour away from Tokyo so in a lot of ways people look at it as a suburb. As I discovered, it has a totally different feel to Tokyo and a style of its own, and you can spend a week here without getting bored or needing to go to the capital for anything.

When shooting the issue, although my assistant and I never left Yokohama to shoot, we did go into Tokyo twice for leisure. Once was to attend the Tokyo Pride march, and the other was to tourist out a bit… we went to the Line Friends shop in Harajuku, we hung out at a hedgehog café in Roppongi, and we got purposefully lost under the lights of Shinjuku. Leaving Yokohama was no sign of disrespect though. I totally recommend you to visit Yokohama, but it’s ok if you spend some time in Tokyo as well. 

See more of Zhi L and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (09) Yokohama (Japan)