Reflecting on our seventh year’s worth of local boys and local stories
As we approach the end of another year, it's a good opportunity to look back at Elska in 2022. Here I'll reflect on each of the six Elska issues released this year. Then I'll give out a few honourary awards before a brief look at what's to come in 2023.
The six Elska issues of 2022 in summary:
1/Elska Montréal (Québec) volume 1 — issue 36:1, released 22nd February
Montréal is such an incredible city, and in Elska terms it's probably the most perfect setting. For one, it was incredibly easy to find local boys up for taking part, and they were so open, daring, and dedicated. That's why the images are some of the sexiest (and most sexual) of any Elska adventure, and why the stories are generally some of the best written. The effort these guys put into showing themselves at their best and most vulnerable is evident. The only problem with Elska Montréal is that it makes me feel almost reticent about carrying on with Elska at all — how could I ever top this issue?!
2/Elska Montréal (Québec) volume 2— issue 36:2, released 3rd March
Ever since I did a university exchange in this city back in the mid-2000s I’ve been in love with Montréal. So of course it was always one of those cities that would have to have an Elska made there. When I finally did it, the city exceeded my expectations to the degree that for the first time in Elska history I couldn't resist making not one but two issues out of the content I made there. I tried to balance each issue as best as possible, but based on sales, this second volume is the slightly more popular one. Perhaps readers overall prefer arse to cock (compare the two covers if you don't know what I mean)? As for me, I love the issues equally — my favourite story (by Max G) is in vol.1 and favourite picture (of Antoine L) is in vol.2.
3/Elska Bern (Switzerland)— issue 37, released 2nd May
This issue was made in a place that I frankly never expected to go to. It's not exactly that Switzerland didn't interest me (though to be totally honest, it wasn't near the top of my wishlist), but it was a country that felt imposible to choose a target city. Zurich? Geneva? Basel? In the end it was due to a passionate request and some free accommodation that led me to Bern, a real can't-say-no opportunity. And I'm definitely glad I didn't say no. Although Elska Bern may seem reserved as a follow-up to Elska Montréal, to me that's not such a bad thing. Bern is so pretty, so full of pretty people, and also surprising. I love to be surprised, and I can't emphasise how surprised I was to have fallen in love with this country. So much so that I returned here to spend part of my anniversary holiday with my husband.
4/Elska Athens (Greece) — issue 38, released 1st July
Athens is one of those places that we've had a lot of requests for over the years, so I was a bit shocked that when I finally decided to go it was really hard to find local participants. It seemed that the notion of being out in a magazine, let alone showing some skin, was pretty scary for what is a much more conservative society than I imagined. With perseverance though I was able to find an exceptionally brave bunch of boys to grace our pages. I find the resulting issue sort of gentle, the kind of issue that you might not feel too shy about reading on the train. Which is not a bad thing; certainly what the issue lacks in excitement it makes up for by including a man who I consider to be the most handsome person ever to appear in any Elska.
5/Elska Singapore — issue 39, released 8th September
Singapore is another city where I didn't exactly expect to bring Elska. It seemed too conservative, too boring, and too risky (homosexuality was still illegal when the issue was made). But it had been ten issues since our last Asian Elska (thanks to a continent with the strictest COVID restrictions in the world). So when Singapore became the first Asian country to reopen to foreign visitors, I booked tickets immediately and hoped for the best. The results are exceptional in how they broke stereotypes — Elska Singapore is shockingly open and ludicrously sexy. So as much as I adore Elska Montréal, this issue is actually my favourite of the year. It also marks my second ever personal appearance in an issue photographically (the other being in Elska Reykjavík); however the image in question only appears in the print version of the mag.
6/Elska Paris (France) — issue 40, released 7th November
This was another issue that shouldn't have happened. The original plan was to make an issue in Marseille, France's second-biggest city. But after some trouble with finding subjects there (and frankly a lot of fatigue following some personal tragedy), I decided to go with what I perceived to be the easiest French option. Ultimately I'm glad things happened as they did because Elska Paris is such a lovely issue. So full of love and light. Unfortunately the issue is marred personally by some agro between myself and one of the subjects, someone who came to regret taking part only after the issue was published for having revealed "too much". For the moment this spoils my enjoyment of the issue, but hopefully eventually I'll get over it and will come to truly love Elska Paris. I know that objectively it deserves it.
And now for some stats and awards about Elska in 2022:
- Top selling issue of the year: Elska Montréal vol.2
- Lowest selling issue of the year: Elska Singapore
- Top selling Elska Ekstra zine of the year: Elska Ekstra Singapore
- Lowest selling Elska Ekstra zine of the year: Elska Ekstra Athens
- Best stories (based on the amount of letters we received praising them): Elska Montréal vol.1
- Best photography (based on the amount of letters we received praising them): Elska Bern
- Highest proportion of nudity: Elska Singapore
- Lowest proportion of nudity: Elska Athens
- Prettiest pet appearance: The precious little kitten named Rosa Luxemburg, as seen alongside Yuri K in Elska Athens
- Top todger: How could it not be the super drippy, super hard member belonging to Xavier A from Elska Paris
- Best bum: Obviously it's Thierry H's curvaceous bottom that graces the cover of Elska Montréal vol.2
- Favourite story of the year: (tough choice, so I'm gonna mention three:) 1) ‘faire notre propre symphonie’ [‘make our own symphony’] by Max G from Elska Montréal vol.2 (a bit saccharine but so what?!); 2) 'ich fühle mich geborgen' ['i feel safe'] by Dominic N and Noah H from Elska Bern (it's just so cleverly written); 3) 'trois garçons' ['three boys'] by John B from Elska Paris [it transports me so well, and give a nice nod to the next issue]
- Favourite photo of the year (my choice): The one of Musha S in Elska Singapore crawling up from the bathtub, suds dripping down his crack and over his balls, mmmmmmm
- The city I’d most like to return to: Montréal. Always Montréal!
- Best cover of the year: Elska Bern (This was a tricky one. We've had more compliments about this cover than any other this year, but also the most complaints. People either think it's gloriously pretty or twee to the point of being naff. I guess it's our marmite cover!)
- Crush of the year: Max G from Elska Montréal vol.1. The level of heat and shy awkwardness that I felt during this shoot almost made me drop the camera a dozen times! It's a miracle the images are actually good!
What's next for Elska?
So what's in store for Elska in 2023? Well, if you noticed the easter egg under the back cover flap of Elska Paris then you'll already know what our next location is, and it's a very legendary gay city. However, this will actually be our March issue. The January issue is a little more of a surprise, though Deluxe Annual Subscribers and Patreon supporters will already know what it is because they'd been invited last month to vote for what that issue's cover will be.
As for the rest of the year, we have travel booked for what should be the May issue. That's going to be made in Bangkok, Thailand. If you or someone you know lives there and might like to be part of the issue, fill in your details here and we'll get back shortly with more information. By the way, this city was chosen by our Editors Circle, I trust our members have made a good choice! I just hope I don't melt in the tropical heat, though I suppose if I survived Singapore, Bangkok will be just fine.
Elska Magazine is a bi-monthly publication created by Liam Campbell dedicated to sharing the bodies and voices of a diverse group of everyday men from LGBTQ communities all over the world.