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I love you and loathe you… with Aarash K from Mumbai

I knew this boy was gonna be trouble before we ever met. When I first made contact with Aarash before my trip to India, he was totally keen on taking part in Elska but also way too casual about the details. When I told him he needed to write a story, the response was “no problem”; when I tried to schedule our shoot, he’d say “just let me know when you get to Mumbai”… I didn’t hold my breath, so when we finally did meet, I was surprised. 

Yet despite my worries, we had an amazing shoot. He took me on the back of his bike and rode me around his neighbourhood, stopping in loads of interesting spots. His district, Kurla, was a fascinating mix of old and new, decrepit and modern. One particularly striking sight was a landscape of still-empty apartment blocks lining a street filled waist high with rubbish (a local even stopped by thinking I was a journalist and asked me to please draw attention to the dumping). Another sight was an area of shops selling just car parts. And then another was a square of gleaming international office buildings (where we stopped for tea and cake). A truly mixed up sort of place, which I love. And then it was time to go back to Aarash’s place for the more intimate shots.

It was such a great day that my doubts about Aarash went away. And then I waited for him to send his story. And I waited and waited and waited. So long that I prepared an alternate version of the issue without him. And then, just at the last minute, his story came. Oh Aarash, I love you and loathe you at once, kinda like how I feel about Bombay!

To see more of Aarash K and to read that story, pick up Elska Magazine issue (10) Mumbai (India).

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The nude that got away… with Nihal S

Every guy I shot nude in Mumbai was surprised that they weren’t the only guys to strip off for the issue. It seems that they assumed their city to be a lot more conservative than it was. As it turned out, it’s one of our most naked issues yet.

With Nihal S, however, there was never any intention to shoot him nude. Instead we met in Khotachiwadi, a former Portuguese district of Mumbai that’s also one of its most colourful and unique. We took photos around the streets and chatted along the way, finishing in a little café to cool off with well-deserved some lemonade… and you can tell he’s hot in the picture, right?!

As we sat in the café Nihal asked if we could do a nude shoot after all. It seems that he’d thought about it but needed to meet me first, you know, to be sure I wasn’t a creep or pervert. Satisfied that I was on the level, he was ready to join the other Bombay boys into nakedness. Unfortunately there really wasn’t enough time in the schedule to do it. But hey, Nihal gives me another reason on a long list of why I should go back to India.

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

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Fleeting… with Bruno P by Mitch Cullen

Elska Magazine issue (10) contains work by two photo-artists beyond Mumbai in our Elska Dehors section. One comes from Mitch Cullin, someone brought to me by fate. I was in Mumbai, shooting Namit K in his bedroom, when he got out a copy of a photobook made my Mitch. I hadn’t come across his work before but I straightaway sent him a message on Tumblr to show my admiration. Soon we were chatting and discussing a potential submission for Elska Dehors. 

I couldn’t be more happy with what Mitch sent in, an evocative analogue set from the desert of a boy who came quickly into and even more quickly left his life. The story he wrote was so beautifully sincere that I am reminded how wonderful it is that cameras exist to capture fleeting moments from fleeting relationships. And somehow the series has an effect of making me see Mitch in the images of Bruno even more clearly than you can see Bruno… if that makes sense. Anyway, absolutely in love here and hope to see more from Mitch in the future.

To see the full set of Mitch’s images of Bruno and to read the story he wrote for us, pick up a copy of Elska Magazine issue (10) Mumbai (India).

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The boy looks pretty… with Sanky E from Mumbai

When this Elska thing started, I was open to shooting any guy. It wasn’t out of principal, but simply because I was too naive to think that one type of guy would be more marketable than another. Over time I learned both that certain types of men are indeed “better” than others commercially, but also that Elska’s decision to ignore that commercial fact was in itself a selling point of Elska. Yet when I met Sanky E for our shoot, I felt somehow uncomfortable. And even after the shoot, before even looking at the images, I told myself that I wouldn’t include the pics in the issue.

It wasn’t age, race, or body type, but rather style that put me off. It seems that I had a problem with the fact that he wore make-up. I’ve shot guys with piercings, tattoos, beards, bellies, even straight guys and trans guys… but suddenly I meet a guy wearing make-up and I’m drawing a line? 

But rather than accept my rejection of Sanky as some personal preference, I tried to think about why it bothered me. Honestly, as best as I can think, his make-up was a symbol of effeminacy that reminded me of my struggles with my sexuality as a young teenager. When kids in school called me ‘faggot’ or tried to mimic my voice, I did two things. First I withdrew to become a very quiet kid, trying to be invisible. Second I tried to butch myself up, teaching myself how I could walk and talk like a “man”. Needless to say, as I got older I thought I changed. That is until, I saw this Sanky with his preened hair, plucked eyebrows and beat face. 

So I  decided to just get over it and publish the images, ‘cos Sanky deserves to be equally with the other Mumbai boys. And, well, the boy looks pretty. Nothing wrong with that!

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

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A great gift… with Faraz A from Mumbai

Faraz was the last guy shot for the Mumbai issue, although he was one of the first guys found for it. The thing is, he’s a really busy guy, very dedicated to making the first LGBT Indian silent film S i s a k. When we did finally get together, he helped make a perfect goodbye to Elska’s Indian adventure.

Faraz knows the city exceptionally well, and what I really mean is that he knows the best shops, the best restaurants, the best cafés, the best everything that the city has to offer. When we met in Kala Ghoda, I was at once in love and annoyed that I hadn’t found the neighbourhood sooner. He took me to this fantastic café where we had hot chocolate and some sort of ridiculously good cake made out of ground cashew nuts. Then he showed me around the rest of the area while I shot him, directing me to all the other places I’d missed out on and now wouldn’t have the time to see. In the end, Faraz gave me a great gift: a huge list of reasons to come back to India. One day I hope I will, and you better be there waiting for me, Faraz!

To see more of Faraz A and to read his text, pick up a copy of Elska Magazine issue (10) Mumbai (India).

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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

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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!