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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).

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Chai… with Namit K from Mumbai

I met Namit K just after sunrise at a Starbucks next to Juhu Beach. I often meet at Starbucks, not so much so to get a drink, but more because they serve as recognisable landmarks, a more pleasant and less smelly version of a McDonalds that is available in every place on Earth. Anyway, we’d planned to shoot during golden hour, but since it was overcast anyway, there was no rush to shoot so we stayed for a drink after all. I got my usual filter coffee, but Namit just wanted “tea" which bizarrely Starbucks in India doesn’t serve. Yes, they sell English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Chamomile, and other bag teas, but not Indian “masala chai”. It’s especially odd since Starbucks in the West does sell a “Chai Tea Latte”, albeit in a very inauthentic form, but here in India they don’t bother. Anyway, I asked the barista to make something “like a chai” and he did his best, which Namit drank, I believe, out of politeness.

Anyway, after our drinks we walked along the beach and took some shots. Then we got in a rickshaw and went to Namit’s place. Once there we went straight to his roof to do some nudes with the cityscape around us. That was supposed to be the end, but Namit invited me inside for some real Indian tea, a proper “chai”.

We then sat in Namit’s bedroom while his mum prepared the most delicious and spicy hot cup of sweet, milky heaven I’d ever tasted. So amazing was it that I asked him to send me the recipe; as soon as I got home to London I was down in the Indian markets in Tooting to buy the ingredients. His mum’s recipe worked a treat… if you’d like the recipe, just pop us an email!

P.S. The book you see Namit reading in the picture is a photobook by Mitch Cullen, one of the photo-artists featured in this issue’s Elska Dehors section.

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

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10th Issue, 10th City – Elska meets the men of Mumbai, India

I can’t believe we’ve been doing this for over a year and a half. We show up in some city, meet a bunch of local boys and photograph them in their homes and on their streets. Then each writes a story for us, and their images and texts are put together in this thing we call Elska Magazine. Simple!

So why India? Well, after we did our first issue in Asia about a year ago, we heard a lot about how few [East] Asian men are seen in LGBT media. It’s true, but then we realised that South Asian men are even less visible, so we felt challenged to sort this out! Plus India seemed like a fascinating way to spend a couple of weeks, so why not?

Ten issues, ten cities so far… Lviv, Berlin, Reykjavík, Lisbon, Taipei, Istanbul, Cardiff, Toronto, Yokohama, Mumbai… it reads like a quirky fashion store window or an American Apparel bag (RIP)! Our next edition will be made in a US city, then in a European one, then in a Middle Eastern one… then who knows? Nowhere is off the table, and any guy is welcome on our pages, whether he’s an 18 year old fit white boy (thinking of Sasha K from Lviv) or a 73 year old B&B owner into public nudity (thinking of Richard W from Toronto). Authenticity is the goal here, not selling copies (though we’d really really like you to buy some)!

So please do pick up a copy of Elska Magazine sometime (or maybe collect them all). Then meet the boys on our pages, get to know them and their cities, and show us some support. There’s no ads, there’s no agenda, just local boys and local stories. Cheers!

Here’s the shop: bit.ly/elskamag

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Marathi Charm… with Anzie V in Mumbai

After I shot Anzie in my room at Abode Bombay we headed out into the neighbourhood for some street shots. Barely five metres from the hotel entrance, however, I felt a swift breeze sweep up behind me followed by a tap on the shoulder. It was a cop.

Only the second day in Mumbai and it was already my second (and not the last) run-in with the local police, who seemed to have a problem with a white guy toting a camera. And in every case dealing with cops, they didn’t speak any English. They didn’t (or wouldn’t) even speak Hindi. It was always Marathi, the local Maharashtrian language.

With Anzie, who fortunately spoke Marathi, he was able to get the cop off our backs. At first he wanted ID. Then he seemed to want to see a permit for shooting (which we didn’t need). Then he was just trying to be smarmy and obtuse. If it wasn’t for that Marathi charm offensive, who knows what would have happened to us and this issue?  

The dealings with cops aside, I realised that language has a big role to play in the local culture and hierarchy. Even name of the city was changed from “Bombay” to “Mumbai” in part to appease Marathi nationalism. But while the cops seemed to love speaking Marathi, our boys didn’t. Although most of the boys in the issue could speak it, none of them wanted to write their story in it. They all wanted to write in English. The only exception was from a boy who barely spoke English, though he wrote his story in Hindi rather than his native Marathi. It was like Marathi was something to be ashamed of, perhaps a sign of not being educated or being low class… I really don’t know. I tried to ask, but the responses I got never really seemed truthful. All I can say is that ten days in India isn’t enough to understand this place but it certainly makes you want to come back and get deeper.

To see more of Anzie V and to read his story (in English), pick up a copy of Elska Magazine issue (10) Mumbai (India).

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A Sari and a bindi… with Rehaan D from Mumbai

First of all, I didn’t ask Rehaan to put on a sari and a bindi. It was all his idea. And I didn’t ask him to mention dressing in “Indian drag” in his story, but he did. Nor by the way did I ask Colin C to wear lederhosen in the Berlin issue… do you think I wanted to get a complaint letter from some arsehole about how culturally it was inaccurate for a Berliner to wear them?! Chill the f*** out!

Now that my ranting is out of the way, I introduce you to Rehaan D. Our shoot together was one of the most interesting shoots I ever had. We met in Worli Tip, an extra colourful part of Mumbai set on a disconnected bit of land under the Sea Link Bridge. It’s an amazing place that you must see if you go to Bombay, but it’s still so undiscovered and hard to get to that the locals will look at you like they’d never seen a foreigner before.

Then we went to Rehaan’s neighbourhood, set in the Dadar Parsi Colony, almost next door to one of the world’s rare remaining Zoroastrian temples. I tried to go inside by the way, but it’s for Parsis only.

And then we were in Rehaan’s house, where he cooked us some breakfast and tea before stripping off for the camera… and then getting dressed up again in his grandmother’s clothes. His story, by the way, is in the form of a letter to her, and it’s one of my favourite stories every written for Elska Magazine.

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

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Welcome to Mumbai!

Today marks the release of the tenth edition of Elska Magazine, this time set in the pulsating heart of the subcontinent, Mumbai / Bombay. It’s a marvellous and maddening place, full of extremes, but also full of people who maintain their calm and friendliness in the face of it all. Traffic? Heat? Crowds? Noise? Side-by-side wealth and poverty? A rigidly conservative and complex hierarchical society? All of that… But we thought that If we were gonna find Elska boys anywhere in India, it would be here!

Inside this issue you’ll meet fourteen local boys, shot in the city and in their homes. Each also wrote a personal story from their life, giving you a  personal and intimate glimpse into Mumbai life, and in particular queer life. In a country that still fears or ignores homosexuality, Bombay is the place where change is being born. There’s a growing gay scene here, more and more people are coming out, and even a burgeoning LGBT cinema is emerging in Bollywood – helped in no small part from a few of the guys in this issue. 

Also inside this issue you’ll meet two more boys in our Elska Dehors section. One comes from Southern California as shot by Mitch Cullin; the second comes from Paris as shot by Alcibiade de Paros. In all this is an issue we’re super proud of, and at 168 pages, it’s out biggest yet. Head to our website to see a list of stockists or to order your copy directly. 

https://elska-magazine.myshopify.com/collections/elska-magazine-print

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Join us in New York to launch our upcoming Elska Magazine issue (10) Mumbai

7pm on March 9, 2017 – BGSQD, 208 West 13th Street, Room 210, New York, NY, 10011

Mark your calendars and celebrate the launch of the tenth edition of Elska Magazine, this time dedicated to Mumbai, India. The founder of Elska Magazine, Liam Campbell, will be there to say a few words about Elska and talk about the experience of meeting and shooting men In India and around the world. Come hang out with us, ask questions, have a chat, maybe meet some boys… and pick up a copy of the latest issue. Free “Elska Mumbai” posters will be available to everyone who buys a copy from the Bureau on the night.

To join the event, click here: https://www.facebook.com/events/248825655541638/