Elska Magazine is a gay male photography and culture magazine that is put out by photographer Liam Campbell. Each of Elska’s editions ventures to a new city and features the stories and portraits of local boys. The zine, which has been around for almost three years, is an up close and personal narrative that gets readers (and admirers) in touch with the landscape of the city and social climate of the location.
Elska, which means ‘love’ in Icelandic, spends weeks scouting social media looking for guys to feature in the city they have chosen to feature. Those who get featured tell their own stories, sharing the narratives they are most comfortable with.
Elska has taken its readers to Israel, Finland, Belgium, India, Japan, Canada, Wales, Turkey, Taiwan, Portugal, Iceland, Germany, Ukraine—and its latest edition Bogotá, Colombia.
Located in South America, Colombia is the land of beauty where beach and urban life paint a backdrop for a quotidian lifestyle that can only be paralleled by vibrant colors and rich culture.
Campbell’s latest installment of Elska Magazine explores the world of one of the largest and thriving cities in Latin America. Although Colombia is known for being the hub for one of the largest drug cartels in the world and other heavy crimes, Campbell was able to capture an un-seen perspective of gay life in the streets and neighborhoods of Bogotá.
The 168 page exposé introduces readers to fifteen men who bare it all, making this the “most naked issue ever” according to Elska—but also includes beautiful and raw portraits of the men in their element.
Colombia legalized same-sex marriage in 2016 and has seen its fair share of LGBT struggles, making it one of the most politically progressive countries in Latin America. This is considering that Latin America is pre-dominantly Catholic--which comes with a great deal of judgment and righteous interference.
Instinct connected with Liam Campbell to find out a little more about Elska:
Why did you start Elska?
Although I studied photography in college, I never used it professionally, but then when I started a job as a flight attendant, the passion stirred in me all over again. Everywhere I travelled to, I'd find local guys online and shoot them on my layovers. At first my intention was to build a portfolio and use it to work in fashion, but later once I did start doing some fashion jobs, I was devastated by the way people treated each other. As a photographer, I was condescended to and my vision was never respected. But it was particularly bad for the models, who were treated like they were stupid and constantly berated about not looking perfect enough. It made me nostalgic about the shoots I did on my layovers, where my simple and natural style felt right and where all the guys I met were perfect and beautiful to me. So I decided to try making a printed collection of portraits in a city on one of my trips, which was in Ukraine, and that was the first Elska issue. After that the mag was lengthened, more stories were added, and it went on from there.
What does Elska symbolize to you?
Well I named Elska after the Icelandic word for 'love', as in 'I love Bogotá' [Ég elska Bogota], and the concept of loving someone is key to me. I think about our friends and how we love them even if they're not perfect. And I think about our partners and how we are attracted to them even though they rarely look like the porn stars who we're supposed to lust after. If you're open-minded, up for expanding your horizons, and willing to just meet different types of people, then you'll see the beauty that exists in everyone everywhere. I guess that's a bit schmatzy but it's how I see it.
It's like when someone will write in to tell us that they didn't like the last issue 'cos there were too many Asian guys and that they're 'just not into Asians'. My response is to tell them to go to Asia or go on a date with an Asian guy. You'll get into it, you know? Preference is nonsense. It's all about connection, and there's nobody you can't connect with if you just be open to it.
What locations do you think you will be traveling to next?
Generally the goal is to have each edition be set somewhere different and far from the one before, but after fifteen Elskas, we still have gaps in Africa and Australia which we're looking to fill in 2018. Also we'll be doing another US city in 2018 as well. After that, who knows?
Where do you see Elska heading in the future?
It's a long process getting an independent mag noticed and accepted, particularly when it's not full of the typical celebrities and models in mainstream media. Then when it is noticed it's particularly difficult to encourage someone to actually buy a copy, as it's a world used to getting art for free, be it by streaming music, torrenting films, etc. But every day someone will write in and say that Elska means something to them, and that keeps the motivation alive. With every new edition we grow, and I hope to just continue that. But I suppose if I'm going to really dream, I can think of two things to aim for - a large format anthology book, and maybe a spot on "RuPaul's Drag Race" running the photoshoot challenge followed by a seat next to Michelle Visage on the judges' panel!
The photos in the latest issue of the magazine are intimate, honest, and reveal more than just the bodies of these Colombian men.
See some of the NSFW photos HERE or HERE
And purchase this and all editions of Elska HERE
Keep an eye out for more Elska on Instagram and Twitter.