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Remembering last year’s shoot with Austin W, who became the cover boy of our Elska Taipei edition. Seen here with our Taipei assistant Roman Tanitchev, evening out his backpack straps, ‘cos you know he’s meticulous like that.

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OMG Look at this Boy… with Temelalj C

I feel like such a dick saying this, because I hate to sound shallow, but Temelalj C didn’t look at all like his picture when we met in person. In Taipei, Roman Tanitchev was our Elska assistant, and Temelalj was someone he found. Roman only ever showed me one pic of him, and well, I wasn’t titilated by it… But you know, everyone’s welcome in Elska whether I personally fancy them or not – each to their own, right?

But OMG look at this boy! This was the first pic I took of him, fixing his hair as we got ready to start the shoot. Gorgeous, right? 

See more of Temelalj C and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (05) Taipei

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BDJ – Jo’i D from Taipei

Doing an issue in Taipei was really a great idea. Yes there was the Elska subscriber who replied to a “how do you like the issue” email with “I didn’t read it because I’m not into Asian guys”… And also in London it was our worst selling issue (but best seller worldwide). But aside from that, the fans of the issue and the boys who participated were some of the most enthusiastic and passionate ever. So we will be doing another Elska in an Asian city. In fact, our next issue will be in Asia. Stay tuned…

See more of Jo’i D and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (05) Taipei (Taiwan): https://elska-magazine.myshopify.com

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(Elska x amba Taipei Zhongshan)

When I arrived at Taipei airport, all I wanted was a bed. I’d flown in from London via an out-of-the-way transit stop in Beijing, sapping my last iota of energy. I was going to be staying at amba Taipei Zhongshan, part of a small boutique hotel chain that I’d personally not heard of; but every Taipei guy I’d mentioned amba to sounded really impressed that we’d be staying there so my spirits were getting a boost on the ride to town from Taipei Taoyuan airport.

When I arrived in the lobby I was instantly revived by the cool design at reception and the buzz coming from the restaurant. It’s not that typical dull, tired afterthought found in many big chain hotels but rather a lively, stylish eatery frequented by locals rather than weary businessmen after a day of meetings. Suddenly all I wanted – no longer my bed – was to pop in the shower and then head out for a drink and a bite to eat. Even after more than 24 hours of travel in a narrow tube full of screaming babies and dreadful so-called food, Amba had the ability to bring me instantly back to life. 

And there’s a lot more positive to say about amba than its buzz and style. Its location in Zhongshan was pretty much perfect. It’s a lively neighbourhood with plenty of shopping, eating and sightseeing possibilities, all set in a mix of modern buildings and historic districts. We shot Rhenz T in an older area a short walk from here; Mine H off the hugely atmospheric Chifeng Street to the west;  Joseph W in a bustling market to the north; and Gemi Sakinu Z here too. Oh, and we ate at Ningxia Night Market a short walk away recommended by hotel staff- definitely a highlight of the trip!

The rooms were well thought out, with a massive amount of plug outlets, USB ports, and even an individual wifi access point (each room has its own for maximum speed). Each room also had individual art, creating a personal touch; and each floor’s landing had a lounge area with unique furnishings, with huge tables for playing games or having meetings and comfy sofas to lounge on.

Oh, and the breakfast – it was a lovely buffet with cold and hot, eastern and western, and some pretty decent coffee too. So good was it , including a reviving environment brought via the bright light streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows, that I was coming down early each morning to linger a long two hours sipping coffee, working on my laptop, and preparing for the day. 

All I can say is that in the end I was sad to leave Taipei, and Amba was a big part of that. Like Lisbon of the previous issue, I can’t wait to come back here as a tourist, but not just for the city but for this hotel. Highly recommended.

​​P.S. The boy in the pic is Gemi Sakinu Z, shot in my room at amba!

amba Taipei Zhongshan: 
No. 57-1, Section 2, Zhongshan N Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei, Taiwan 104
http://www.amba-hotels.com
http://www.facebook.com/ambaZhongshan

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(Contracts… with Anon from Taipei)

In case you’re wondering, every guy in Elska signs a sort of contract called a ‘Model Release Form’. It states what the pics are for and our rights. It has happened a few times that guys did a photoshoot and then changed their mind about being published. This contract means they can’t change their mind later. The first issue yielded two of these – but it had already gone to the printers and was too late to cut them even if I wanted to.

From Taipei there was another who changed his mind. He was a sweet guy, and even invited my assistant Roman and I over to his place after our shoot to hang out. He just got cold feet, so when later he asked to not be printed, I humoured him. Yes, it is a lot of work to shoot someone and edit their photos only to later not use them, but in this case the Taipei issue was already too big and I needed to make some cuts. He made the decision easy for me. 

And since this image doesn’t reveal his identity, you get a little clue or who may have been one more in the Taipei issue. 

Well you can’t see this guy but you can see loads more of the Taipei boys and read their stories in Elska Magazine issue (05) Taipei (Taiwan): https://elska-magazine.myshopify.com/collections/elska-magazine-print

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(“So I joined the Army” [所以我加入了軍隊]… with Justin L from Taipei)

[Original in Mandarin; English version follows]

帶者些許醉意,我走出台北最大的夜店,回頭看著還在狂歡的其他人們,心裡想的卻是還在家裡的男朋友,也許真的是到了不愛玩的年紀了~

我175cm.71.kg.29years,一個在台北長大的小孩,本來是在一個普通的家庭長大,但是我14歲那年我父親去世了,家裡只剩下我跟我媽,所以我加入了軍隊來幫助家裡,​​SMLXL​
在剛到軍隊的初期真的很困難,軍事化的管理,同期軍校生的競爭,由其是軍中對同性戀的高壓政策,可是越是困難我就越是要証明“同性戀在軍中也是可以很優秀的“,所以我在軍中真的是很努力,從體能到學策我一直都保持在前面的排名
這時我生命中的第一個男孩出現了,他陽光健壯而且還是體育代表隊,其實我跟他的關係真的很微妙,我們可以分享許多方面的想法跟夢想,甚至連喜歡的電影也都差不多,我們一起上課一起出操一起放假一起吃飯,軍中的封閉環境反而加溫了我們的關係
第一次跟他發生性行為,其實我們都知道會到這一步,只是年青的我們都不知道如果進行下去,就傻傻的作了,現在想起都覺得好笑
我抬頭看著台北這從不睡覺的城市天空,就算是夜晚也充滿了五光十色的光芒,其實在台北當個gay 真的是很幸福的事,你永遠都可以有事情作,可以去party,可以出門2小時就到另一個城市去旅遊,可以很晚出門也不怕有犯罪,隨時都可以吃到美食就算是3am,
對我來說,台北是我的出生地跟成長的地方,乘載著我所有的情感,既迷人又神秘,台北~我的城市… – Justin L. ​​

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[Still a little tipsy, I walked out of Taipei’s biggest nightclub, looked back at the people still partying, but I was focused on getting to my boyfriend’s house. Perhaps not really typical for someone at the age of 29 and 175cm and 71kg. I grew up in Taipei in an ordinary family, but when I was 14 years old my father died. So I joined the Army to help the family. In the early days, it was really hard in the Army. The military training of cadets back then was harsh and competition was tough. Also hard was the high-handed policy against homosexuals in the military, but the biggest challenge was me wanting to prove that “homosexuality in the military is also possible and very good”. So I worked very hard in the Army. In both the physical areas to the school areas I always kept at the front of the rankings.​​ 

At this time in my life first appeared a boy. In fact, my relationship with him was really very subtle, In many ways we could share ideas and dreams, and even favourite movie. We also did exercise together classes, had a holiday dinner together. The Army’s closed environment somehow warmed our relationship. At first it happened sort of innocently and bit by bit the sexuality blossomed.I looked up at the Taipei city sky that never sleeps, even if the night is full of colourful light. In fact, being gay Taipei is really a very joyous thing, You can always do something, you can go party, you can go two hours to travel to another city, you can go out late with no fear of a criminal, you can always eat the food even if it is 3am. For me, I was born in Taipei and grew up with all of this, all of these emotions take, both charming and mysterious, Taipei – my city …] – Translation from Mandarin by Google and edited by Liam Campbell.

Meet the other Taipei boys and read their stories in Elska Magazine issue (05) Taipei

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(The Power of a Smile… with Joe F from Taipei)

I fell in love with Joe F almost instantly after we met. He didn’t really speak English at all, so there was little conversation, but he said a lot with his smile. And this guy almost never stopped smiling. 

I met Joe F along with Jo’i D in Tamsui. Roman, my assistant for the Taipei project, found Jo’i and then Jo’i suggested his friend Joe to join as well. The more the merrier. At first the plan was to shoot Joe nude at home, but he couldn’t use his place to shoot and I didn’t want another hotel room shoot. So, although I’d have liked to shoot him naked, we opted instead for an outdoor shoot. Plus, although I love nudes, I already had five nude shoots in the Taipei collection and don’t want too many. I didn’t want to turn the Taipei issue into another Berlin issue!

Anyway, we were happily taking photos around Tamsui and then just as we walked past a quietish alleyway, Joe stopped to whisper something to Jo’i, who then translated to me that Joe wanted to go into that alley for a few stripped down pics. You can see the whimsy on his face, which I snapped just when a group of four old ladies happened to walk by and spot Joe with his trousers down. 

​Although I couldn’t chat to Joe, I still felt connected and like a friend. Everytime I looked at him he would smile back, and it melted my heart, making me feel safe and encouraging a serious bastard like me to smile too. A smile is a powerful, wonderful thing, and I think Joe may be the smiliest boy in Taiwan.

See more of Joe F and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (05) Taipei