Journalists are gross
I guess I'm lucky that my work as editor, creator, and photographer for Elska Magazine has gotten a good deal of media attention over the years, even if sometimes the articles about me and my work aren't exactly reflective of my point of view. I usually just choose to believe that all press is good press and hope that some people will be influenced to pick up an actual copy of Elska and judge for themselves.
Most often when a media outlet does a piece on my work, they just copy and paste my press release and print some of the pics provided in the press kit. I am totally fine with that — in fact, I don't even see it as lazy; I choose instead to consider it flattering that they find my press release good enough to print as is. However, often the headlines they choose are pretty gross, e.g. "12 Hot and Sexy Swedish Boys to Warm Up Your Winter". It's not that I'm against sexualising per se, but it's just not a good summation of my work is. Rather I want to let readers fall in love with different types of people by letting them get to know them beyond just their looks. Such headlines invariably cause readers to react defensively with comments like, "These guys aren't hot at all, they're fucking ugly", which perhaps is what these media outlets actually want.
Adding insult to injury, even though I always include two images of every person featured in an Elska issue for its corresponding press kit, too often media outlets choose to print only the most 'traditionally' good-looking guys, especially for their main image. Why in an Elska issue featuring men from their early twenties to their late fifties would you choose the twenty-year-old lad with abs and perfect skin for your banner image? Well, I suppose because more people will click it, and I get that. And even though I don't base my editorial decisions on what I think appeals to the widest and most mainstream audience, I don't suppose I can expect others to do it my way. But it's pretty disheartening when one of the Elska participants writes me wondering despondently why an article he just read includes an image all the other guys in his issue except him. I suppose I could tell him that it's because he's skinny and has big ears, which is perhaps the reason, but instead I just tell him that it's probably a mistake. This is a true story by the way, and he's a beautiful man, inside and out, sticky-out ears and all.
Sometimes I am lucky enough to do a proper interview, which I quite enjoy. It's a chance to answer some often thoughtful questions thoughtfully and to show some personality. However, no matter how well I think I represented myself and Elska, I can't control which of my answers get published or how much they'll be edited. Recently I was shocked to see an article published where the headline crudely took my words out of context. The headline read something like, Gay Magazine Editor: "Who's Hot and Who's Not?". Luckily the fuller context was printed in this article, but it's well known that most people only read headlines before drawing conclusions, and I fear this headline damages my reputation. The context by the way was me saying that I am tired of seeing mainstream magazines rank people, put them into boxes, and judge them by 'who's hot and who's not', that this is absolutely not what I want to do or want to facilitate with my work.
Perhaps this headline will generate more clicks. Probably it will also generate some anger, which along with lust, is a pretty big driver of click behaviour. Or maybe I'm overreacting. It's possible that this journalist finds such a headline so ridiculous in the context of my work that others reading it would instantly laugh it off. They did after all choose for their main image a cute AF chubby dude in a tight t-shirt. Maybe journalists are gross, or maybe they're better at satire than I give them credit for; and if readers aren't able to understand that, then they probably wouldn't be into Elska Magazine anyway.
Liam Campbell is editor and chief photographer of Elska Magazine, a publication that's happy to say who's hot, but never will declare who's not.