Image

The first Elska boy… with Diego B

It’s honestly hard to say who was the first Elska boy. Technically the first guy ever shot for Elska Magazine was Nikita S from issue (01) Lviv. But there was a long period before Elska was launched, or even conceived of, where I started meeting guys to shoot. I guess you could say it was during the Elska incubation period, which as it happens, took around nine months. 

I met Diego S at around five in the morning at his house in South LA. I was up early with jetlag, and he was just late to bed. We chatted on one of the gay apps and, since I had just bought a new camera, I suggested trying it out on him. It was in fact the camera used for the first seven issues of Elska, before it broke and required replacing with a (thankfully) better camera. 

The lighting was awful at Diego’s place, so I had to use my on-camera flash, which I covered with an empty plastic milk jug from Diego’s bin to soften things a bit. Then we just started shooting until the sun came up and Diego was finally ready to sleep. Me, on the other hand, I was straight back online to find another “model”, now totally addicted.

Meet our other Elska boys and read their stories in Elska Magazine

Image

Result!… with Jahan B from Mumbai

I met Jahan in the northwestern part of Mumbai, beyond the reach of standard public transport. So after I got the train as far as I could go, I hopped on an auto-rickshaw and told the driver where I needed to get. But he couldn’t understand me – I guess I was pronouncing the destination all wrong! So I called Jahan and handed the phone to the driver (a tactic I ended up using several times in Mumbai).

After about five or ten minutes I was dropped off in a busy market square, and I thanked the driver in good faith that he’d dropped me actually where I wanted to be. From there I searched to find Jahan, whom I’d only ever seen a couple pics of from his Instagram, but with all the crowds, it was impossible.  Then just as I was about to reach for my phone again, he found me. Considering I was the only white guy around, it was easy!

So we walked to his place, but since his boyfriend was sleeping off a hangover in the flat, we went to his roof to shoot before quietly entering the flat. We shot with tip-toes and whispers in the kitchen, the lounge, the bedroom… then coerced his bf to leave the other bedroom so we could use it instead.

I really liked Jahan, a super intelligent and sharp guy, the kind who will read this and tell me how I am remembering the details all wrong! I had a bit of time after we finished shooting and wanted to spend it chatting with him, but I was too shy to ask. But as Jahan walked me outside, he invited me to the beach. Result!  There we walked on the sand between calm sea and cliff rocks studded with couples making out. Another great Elska shoot with another great Elska boy, one that hopefully would turn into a lasting friendship.

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

Image

Elska Couples… with S Arif and Inder N from Mumbai

So far we’ve shot three couples for Elska Magazine. The first was in Istanbul. Usually we try to schedule the boys before we go to a city but with Istanbul, it was really hard to do. So we ended up relying heavily on the gay apps, messaging guys left and right. On Hornet I found Sasha B & Tema P, a Russian couple holidaying in Istanbul. They weren’t ‘local boys’ so I was hesitant to shoot them, but they were frequent travellers to Istanbul, totally in love with Turkey, so not exactly unconnected to the city. It was hard to decide to shoot them or not, so in the end I decided to go ahead, mainly because I was desperate. (In the end, it was very easy to find participants on the fly, so they ended up not in the issue, but in Elska Ekstra instead).

The second Elska couple was also in Istanbul – Ekin K & Emrullah T – the first gay couple to get married in Turkey. Ekin I did plan to shoot in advance, but it wasn’t until the day we met that I knew I’d be shooting his husband too. A nice surprise, although a bit of a tricky shoot since one was much more comfortable in front of a camera than the other. But we made it work!

Finally in Mumbai we met our third Elska couple, S Arif and Inder N. Very in sync, they were easy to shoot and also quite enjoyed it. Inder was especially on board, being cheeky enough to demand that I get naked and let them shoot me too! 

To see more of S Arif & Inder N, and to read their story, pick up Elska Magazine issue (10) Mumbai (India).

P.S. There actually was a couple shot in issue (03) Reykjavík – Haukur G and Kyle B – but they were shot separately, so it’s kinda not the same thing!

Image

Centre of Attention… with Vinamra S from Mumbai

I hate using taxis. Even in a city where public transport is especially difficult and uncomfortable like Mumbai, I still stick to trains and my feet. But when it came to shooting Vinamra early in the morning at his place way on the other side of Mumbai in Mulund, I opted for an Uber. At least with Uber I wouldn’t get cheated and the driver would have my destination on GPS so I wouldn’t have to explain where I wanted to go and so he couldn’t get lost on purpose. Plus in India, Uber is really cheap, which doesn’t hurt.

Anyway, when the driver dropped me off, I realised that I didn’t have the full address. I was stood outside a mid-rise apartment block with no apartment number and my local mobile phone was out of credit! Soon, the sight of a white boy in this far-from-central location started to grab attention. One by one, men started to approach me to see who I was and what I was doing hanging around their neighbourhood. None of them spoke English so I just kept saying “Vinamra”, “Vinamra" in hopes one would recognise the name. Then I whipped out my laptop where I thought I had his instagram page still open… but I didn’t. By this time I had around ten middle-aged men trying to take control of the situation.

Finally a youngish guy came up asking in English who I was looking for. And fortunately this guy knew Vinamra and told me I was outside the wrong building! He walked me across the road, and just as I got to the main doors, Vinamra emerged, wondering why I was late and wasn’t answering my phone. 

Two lessons learned… 1) check your phone balance before you go out; 2) don’t expect to go unnoticed as a foreigner in India; 3) people in India will try to help you. Generally I hate being the centre of attention but in this case, it helped.

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

Image

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

Image

elskamagazine:

(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