Image

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.

Advertisements
Image

(331 Miles Away… with Furkan Y from Istanbul)

Furkan Y got in touch with us in response to a call put out on our behalf by the folks at GZone Magazine, Turkey’s one and only LGBT magazine. I replied to him with the main details, asked which date would be good and put him down on the schedule. 

He was really keen, and my first inkling of this came due to the fact that he submitted his story well before the shoot. Actually Istanbul was the most difficult issue to make so far in terms of guys submitting their stories by the deadline. But that’s for another story. 

My next inkling of Furkan’s keenness came a few days before the shoot when he messaged me to check where exactly we should meet. On an aside, I was going to shoot him in the Grand Bazaar, but a pass through the area instructed me that I hated the place. It was way too crowded, kinda lacking soul, and way too full of people who obviously weren’t Turks (I mean ladies in full burqas from the Arabian peninsula or aged Western backpackers). Yes, it may be an iconic Istanbul sight but it’s also on the verges of cliché, so I felt ok to abandon it. 
Anyway, without a location in mind, I asked Furkan where he lived, thinking I could choose a location near his place. “Ankara”, he said.

Erm, that’s the capital, 331 miles (533 km) away from Istanbul. I had no idea, but then I never asked. I just assumed he was from Istanbul as after all he answered a call to participate in the making of an Istanbul issue. But I wasn’t going to argue. He wanted this badly, so I would have to bend the rules on allowing a not-so-local boy into the issue.

We decided to meet at the top of Galata Bridge mainly ‘cos I knew he’d be able to find it (everyone knows where that is). On meeting him it was rather obvious that he wasn’t used to Istanbul. He didn’t know where he was going and seemed a little bit frightened by the mean streets of the big city. He also kept voicing his frustrations with Istanbul peculiarities that didn’t exist back home, such as the level of traffic and the lack of litter bins. But once the camera was on, he was in the zone, becoming the most prepared and considered poser of all the Istanbul boys. “Relax” I’d keep telling him, trying to break the poses, but he came a long way for this shoot, and he was going to do it his way.

See more of Furkan Y and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (06) Istanbul

Image

(Planning to Retire in Tamsui…with Jo’i D from Taipei)

For the Taipei issue, more than any other, I encouraged the boys to choose where they wanted to shoot. For Issue (01) Lviv and (02) Berlin, the locations were all pre-planned by me and my assistant Andriy. For (03) Reykjavík and (04) Lisbon I started to loosen up a bit but still kept things quite controlled. 

For Taipei, however, I was very open. Partly this was just because I didn’t know where to go. Tourist literature about Taipei, in English anyway, isn’t so abundant yet. Furthermore, my tactic of dropping random pins on Google maps and then looking at Streetview didn’t reveal much of anything inspiring. I felt a bit lost, so I sought guidance from the boys. And that’s probably not a bad idea in future – they live there after all – so why not let them decide, not just ‘cos the locale might look good on film but ‘cos the place means something to them?

Jo’i D suggested we shoot in Tamsui, right by the riverside. I had a quick look at pics online and was instantly on board. It was almost an hour on the MRT train from central Taipei though, but worth the ride. I instantly fell in love and starting asking Jo’i if he knew how much a flat there would cost. I was already planning to retire in Tamsui.

When you arrive at the station, it looks like a pretty typical modern Asian city, with lots of mid-rise buildings crammed with shops and restaurants and roads clogged with traffic. But then you just walk two minutes toward the riverfront and things calm. With a backdrop of mountains and a cooling breeze, the boardwalk is a place to feel calm from the bustle.

On Tamsui Old Street there are plenty of vendors and street food (like in all of Taipei, the culture is all about street eats).  There’s a bit of the charm of an English seaside town apparent, except instead of sticks of rock for sale, you can buy sticks of homemade Italian-style nougat. You also find a lot of vendors selling whole deep-fried squids, tentacles and all. If there’s one negative thing I can say about Tamsui is that the whole town smells like fried squid… but I suppose you get used to it. 

I’ll be honest. Taipei is super cool but it’s not the prettiest place by any stretch. But Tamsui is pretty, so if you’re in Taipei and start tiring of the grime, head north on the MRT to the end of the line. Oh and there’s boats here that take you to Bali… Bali, Taiwan anyway!

See more of Jo’i D and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (05) Taipei

Image

(My Taipei Bromance… with Austin W from Taipei)

Austin W was the Pedro C of the Taipei issue. Like the aforementioned Lisbon Elska boy, I was infatuated by his style. It felt like a crush but in a bromance sort of way, or like how a teenager might look up to an older brother or cousin who is just so cool and becomes a target of aspiration. Luckily I had an assistant for both shoots – without Roman or Andriy I’d have turned to jelly in their presence.

Austin chose a location that was so my style. It was a riverside park under a load of overpasses – everything was grey and green, plus a bit of blue. I love this kind of ugly-beautiful, a bit of harsh modernity mixed with nature. This was the first day in the entire Taipei trip that had any sunshine or blue sky whatsoever. Truthfully I’d have preferred this shot in the rain, with glistening wet concrete, but at least we stayed dry. 

Before we met I thought Austin was going to be a diva. He messaged me a couple days before to say he was worried about his hairstyle’s ability to stay in tact in the outdoors, and if it would be ok to wear a cap. “Whatever you want is fine with me,” I said, though he was unable to see me rolling my eyes. In person, however, he was no diva at all. In fact he was a bit shy and also very cool.  We also had some stuff in common, like a love for music and a good coffee place. He gave me some recommendations, both of which I went to and both of which were excellent. If you’re in Taipei, check them out: Paper Street Coffee Company; and a place whose English translation comes out as Worker’s Livelihood Apartment.

Anyway, I got so charmed by Austin that as we were shooting I decided that, without seeing the pics yet, I wanted him to be the Elska Taipei cover boy.  The only problem was that, as fabulous as our location was, it wasn’t representative enough of Taipei in general to be a backdrop for a cover. So as we walked back to the station after the shoot, I spotted a more typical Taipei street and asked if I could take a few more pics. I didn’t tell Austin why, because if he did make the cover, I wanted it to be a surprise. In the end, of course, he did make the cover. It’s my little ‘gift’ to my Taipei bromance boy.

See more of Austin W and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (05) Taipei

Image

(Small World London… with Ricardo V from Lisbon)

It was one week after returning from Lisbon. I was deep in the job of processing photos, laying out the magazine, and trying to get the texts together for the upcoming Issue (04). I tend not to work well from home so I usually go to a café to work, preferring the light buzz of others around me to the silent lull of home. On this particular day I had just parked my bike and was heading to a Prêt à Manger on The Strand to work. Yes, I know it’s not the coolest place but the filter coffee is just 99p, the wifi is free, and the tables are big – also I don’t feel guilty about using the resources of such a mega-corporation in exchange for said ninety-nine pence.

Anyway, I started to cross the road and I noticed a lad walking with a suitcase dragging alongside him. At first it was the case I noticed (I wanted it!) and then it was the boy… it was Ricardo V, who just one week ago that very day I was shooting in Lisbon.

I called his name. No response. Maybe it was some other Latin boy. I called again. This time he turned around. What a surprise! I never thought such a big city like London could yield such coincidences. He’d come here just the day before for a job interview and was on his way to the airport to go home. He had a little time, however, so we both went into the Prêt and sat down for a chat.
First on the agenda was that he hadn’t sent in his text yet and the deadline was looming. He promised to do it that very day, on his plane ride home. 

If you pick up Issue (04) you’ll see that he didn’t write it by the time I had to send the issue to the printers, which is why his text is a story written by me about meeting him in Lisbon. However, eventually he did send it, and you can find that in his Elska Ekstra. It’s hard to be annoyed at him though, for he’s so sweet and charming. Perhaps I’ll see him again, maybe bumping into him in Taipei as I shoot for Issue (05). You never know!

Image

(IT’S LIKE MEETING MADONNA… with GABRIEL R by LAURO JUSTINO)

When I was a naïve teenager, shortly after receiving my first camera from my old boss Yehuda, I did a shoot of my best friend Stacie in a car park, with eggs as a prop. The inspiration came from Björk’s “Venus as a Boy” video. Sounds weird, and it was. But it was a learning process.

I then got into street photography. With Anastasia in tow, we went to a bland working class suburb southwest of Chicago – it could have been Tinley Park, Mokena, Orland Park – and we took shots of regular folk eating fast food. I hadn’t yet figured out how to be stealthy so the results were just stupid. Embarrassing.  

It was years later that my tastes developed into something new, something a bit more Elska. I don’t know even what you call it, though ‘homotography’ is a term I love, borrowed from the tumblr of the same name. One of the first photographers that I stumbled across who really inspired me, and continues to do so, is Lauro Justino, whose tumblblog Sem Foco, is one of the best out there. Way back before Elska was even a glimmer of an idea, I remember bragging to friends with such utter delight when Lauro followed me on Instagram; then again when we became Facebook friends.

And now, most recently, I have the joy of having his work submitted in Elska Issue (03). It’s like meeting Madonna or something to have even spoken to someone you long admired. And here we are working together. What a dream it would be to actually meet someday. Perhaps after the 2016 Olympics are done, and if there is budget for flights, I can go to Rio to do an Elska issue in Lauro’s home territory. And then maybe we can even do a shoot or two together. 

See more of Gabriel R and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (03) Reykajvík

If you’re out there, get in touch (TBT)… with Diego R for Elska Magazine

Here’s a throwback from one of the first shoots I did. I had just arrived into LA and with the eight hour time difference from London, I was asleep by 8pm and then wide awake by 3am. With nothing to do, I put Grindr on and started chatting to Diego.

webportf_diego-1-11I asked if he was up for doing a few photos. I had no lighting equipment with me, and just a basic lens, but I felt in the mood. I’m not sure what reason he had for still being awake but he was bored or crazy enough to invite me over.

He was one of the most handsome bloke’s I’d seen in ages, especially in the flesh. And his home was so evocatively Latino-Catholic that in between pics of Diego I was snapping statues of Jesus, portraits of Mary and assorted crucifixes.

webportf_diego-1-14Next time I’m in LA, especially if we ever do an LA issue of Elska, I’d love to find Diego again and include him, but I don’t have his contact details. Diego – if you’re out there, get in touch.

Subscribe to or buy individual issues of Elska Magazine, available in select shops or online at www.elskamagazine.com