Last of the little Elskas
When I started my Elska project I originally intended to produce a publication that was akin to a classic zine — small, staple-bound, maybe sixty or seventy pages max, and charmingly rough — inspired by the smutty little queer zines I saw in smutty little shops around London's Soho. Starrfucker was the first of this type of zine I saw, and I also frequently came across Meat as well (though I'd never actually read a full copy 'cos all the shops had them wrapped in plastic and I was too poor back then, or too selfish, to support local art — to this day I get annoyed when shops wrap my work in plastic 'cos I remember how much being able to leaf can help sell). Anyway, although I set out to emulate these formats, as soon as I returned from my first shoot trip, I ended up with way too much content to squeeze down into something so small. So I kept the width and height dimensions of a zine, but made them nice and thick, with anywhere from 140 to 180 pages in length. Not quite a zine, nor really a magazine, so 'bookazine' became my descriptor of choice.
I kept to that 'bookazine' format for the first twenty-one issues of Elska, and then I decided to do a major change. I wanted something bigger, with more pages, and also I wanted something more luxurious, with higher quality paper and more skillful printing methods. As someone who loves consistency though, who likes when a collection looks neat and uniform on a shelf, it was a risk, but I loved my new 'big' Elskas and feel that they are the most perfect format to carry the content I produce. But I also still enjoy the older 'little' Elskas — they're cute, they're compact, and they really have that homemade feel that a classic zine often has.
Over time the 'little' Elskas issues have sold out one by one, with the most recent issue to go out of print being the Cape Town (South Africa) edition. Right now there's only one issue left in stock, which is the Elska London issue. This is the last of the little Elskas.
At the time of writing, there’s nine or ten copies left. In some ways I’m happy to see it go, so that all of the available Elska issues will be of that uniform, and rather lovely, big format. I often worry that a brand new customer ordering a selection of issues that includes some 'little' and some 'big' will be disappointed by the smaller ones. Still I’m also feeling nostalgic, a little sad to see this format go for good.
By the way, if you're curious why Elska London is the last to remain in stock, it's not because the London issue didn't sell well. It actually sold rather average, but I mistakenly assumed that it would have sold much more and so I printed far too many copies. This still perplexes me to be honest. How come of the three UK cities I've featured so far (Cardiff, London, and Belfast), London would sell the least? It's a city with like ten times the population of those others, after all! If you have any ideas, let me know, but my sense is that people in the rest of the UK despise London; and Londoners themselves don't have enough extra money after paying for rent and a monthly travelcard to buy something as frivolous as a zine, a book, or a 'bookazine'.
Liam Campbell is editor and chief photographer of Elska Magazine, a project about travelling the world and sharing the bodies and voices of a range of local guys I happen to meet. Each issue is made in a single city and is full of photos and stories that reveal what happened and who I met on that trip.