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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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If you’re an Elska fan and don’t yet know about Starrfucker Magazine​, it’s a fantastic queer photography zine by Jeremy Lucido​. It was a great inspiration when Elska was starting out, and both mags make a lovely companion for a lazy bedtime read.

Check out Starrfucker here: https://www.starrfuckermagazine.com/

And of course Elska: www.elskamagazine.com

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(Tea… with Dave R)

When Elska did its first shoots a year ago in Lviv, Ukraine, I believed a tradition had started. For that first shoot week we rented an apartment right in the city centre. And since we’d be self-catering rather than in a hotel, I brought loads of tea bags (English Breakfast and Earl Grey) along. Well, actually I stole them from the airport lounge in Heathrow (sorry)! Oh, and I also brought boxes of traditional shortbread biscuits for each of the boys, plus some for the apartment.

The plan was that all the boys we shot would come to the flat first for a chat and then we’d go out to take the pics. We ended up have a cup of tea (with milk as is the English way, which they all wanted to try) and a biscuit before the shoot, and sometimes more after the shoot. It was a cute custom that helped us bond with each of the lads. And I hoped it would become a tradition for future Elska shoot weeks. ​

For Berlin I also procured a load of tea bags before arriving, but the city was just so huge that it wasn’t convenient for each guy to come to our apartment. But even those who did meet us at our place seemed to not be keen on hanging around. Maybe it’s the hustle and well, unfriendliness, of a large city, but it was nothing like Lviv.And what was worse was that even when we went to other guys’ homes to shoot, nobody offered us tea. Maybe it’s not a German custom to offer a drink to visitors, or maybe they just considered the Elska experience more of a “strictly business” situation. The only person who was truly hospitable was Roman T, who even made us dinner and offered not just tea but Sekt! But then, Roman isn’t a born-and-bred German – he’s originally from Russia. And even if it’s not politically correct to compare Ukrainians to Russians, they do share a knack for hospitality in common.​​

In Reykjavík, Lisbon, Taipei, and Istanbul too, tea was rarely offered. But I thought that in Cardiff it might be different. I’d never been to Wales but in every home I’d ever been to in England, I was offered tea before I even took my shoes off! So when I went to Dave’s place I was disappointed that he didn’t offer us a brew. Maybe it’s not a Welsh thing, I don’t know, but my hopes were dashed.And then only ten minutes after I left I got a text from Dave. He was apologising profusely for not offering a cuppa. It was the nervousness of being shot nude for the first time that distracted him. His apology made my day, and it renewed my faith in British hospitality. There would be lots more tea after that, and hopefully in more Elska cities to come.

See more of Dave R and read his story in Elska Magazine Issue (07) Cardiff.

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(Elska x Cathedral 73 Cardiff)

I arrived early in Cardiff, too early to check in to my hotel, so I found a café in the neighbourhood to wait and work in. Brød, an authentic Danish bakery was my bliss; but not wanting to outstay my welcome with one coffee for hours I moved on, next stumbling across Lufkin Coffee Roasters,  hidden in a Pontcanna alley called. How was Cardiff out-hipstering Shoreditch? I moved on toward the hotel, stopping to peer into an estate agent’s window, half thinking about leaving London for Wales.  

And then I arrived at Cathedral 73 Hotel. It felt like I was home. I had been expecting an old school B&B but it was thoroughly modern, stylish, sumptuous and fully worthy of the boutique hotel monicker. I didn’t expect to get such a spacious room either, complete with separate bedroom, huge bath and even a full kitchen (perfect for baking a frozen pizza after a very full day of shooting). Then a proper Welsh breakfast in the charmingly period restaurant in the morning was all you could ask for.

Of course I had to do a shoot here too, and I even ended up photographing three guys at Cathedral 73, a couple just for fun, because I was so comfortable here and the light was too seductive. This is absolutely where I’ll stay if I ever come back to Cardiff, and I’m sure I will.

CATHEDRAL 73 HOTEL: 73 CATHEDRAL RD, CARDIFF, CF11 9HE, CATHEDRAL73.COM, +44 29 2023 5005