Keeping it in the Elska family
In the very beginning of Elska, we found participants mainly through a slightly arduous process of going on all the various gay apps and just messaging everyone on the screen. Some replied with a bit of annoyance, most didn't reply at all, but a surprisingly good amount were keen on our idea. To do a shoot, get a story, and publish them in some little print mag wasn't as hard an ask as I expected, thankfully. Over time however, more and more of our 'elskans' (my word for the subjects / participants / models / boys) have come directly to us, or via an Elska 'family' connection.
Nowadays we usually recruit in two ways. First we consult our masterlist of hopeful elskans (guys can apply to be in a future issue by filling in the ‘Be in Elska’ form on our website). Then we make announcements on social media giving the location details and shoot dates. In most issues this completes the roster pretty well, with only the need to go onto the apps to fill in a few gaps.
Sometimes we’ve also found that past elskans have responded to our announcements by recommending some of their friends around the world. One of the times this really stuck in my mind was when Alejandro R (from Elska Bogotá) was delivered to us by Pieterjan V / Nikolas R (from Elska Brussels). The reason it really sticks is because of the story of how they met. Alejandro told me all about it over a mid-shoot lunch at Crepes y Waffles. Let’s just say it was a little bit sordid, but I’ll let you use your imagination.
Another guy who I can't forget about was Lew Ż (from Warsaw) who came to us via his friend Juan S (from Bogotá). I probably would have never met Lew otherwise because he didn't really speak English (yes, one of the big flaws in my 'research methodology' in making Elska is that men who speak my language are more likely to be found). It just so happened that Juan ended up moving to Poland about a year after I shot him in Colombia, and he was keen to help recruit for our Warsaw issue. Lew was his only contribution though — despite a reasonably large friend network in Warsaw, most weren't so keen on bearing all for Elska. If you've read our Warsaw issue, I explain the reasons in greater detail.
Although I'm not supposed to announce it yet, I've told a few people about a certain upcoming Elska in a certain Brazilian city. Response seems to be big from the Elska family network — I guess everybody knows a Brazilian — so I'm imagining that issue's roster will be our easiest to fill yet (so far Elska Manila was our easiest). I'm always happy for the help, it certainly makes my life easier, and I also feel it's better this way. Keep it in the family right?
As for the guy in the top pic, that's Boris L from Elska Haifa. I can't for the life of me remember who recommended him but I know he was an Elska family connection. Maybe from Aviv? Or perhaps Igor? My brain's gone all fuzzy, too much air travel and not enough sleep perhaps.
Liam Campbell is editor and chief photographer of Elska Magazine, a project that gathers together a bunch of men he meets on his travels, and introduces them all to readers though honest photographer and personal stories.