Why the gays love Reykjavík… and Toronto?

Last week I ran a poll which presented a list of twelve sold out Elska Magazine issues, asking people to vote for one to bring back. Since the current virus crisis means that I can't yet travel to shoot a brand new issue, I thought it was a good opportunity to use my time to reissue a past series. Even though shops are closed, shipping is delayed, and sales are generally quieter, I chose to do it at least to keep my brain occupied, and to let Elska readers know that the project is still alive.

The results of the vote both surprised and didn't surprise me. The winner, with over 20% of the vote, was Elska Reykjavík. This has been our biggest selling issue so it's not too much of a risk to reprint. Yet I've always wondered why the gays love Reykjavík so much — the LGBTQ friendly society, the beautiful scenery (and people), or just the fantasy of sitting in hot tubs under the northern lights. Whatever the reason, I'm on board with Iceland being one of the top LGBTQ travel destinations in the world, and what better queer souvenir of Iceland exists than the Elska made there?

The second place, with 20% of the vote, was Elska Toronto, something that did surprise me. It also kind of worried me as I saw the votes come in for it. Out of twenty-eight Elskas published so far, this was our second-lowest seller of all, so reissuing it felt like I might end up throwing cash into the wind.

I would have loved to give Elska Toronto a second try though. At the time of release I was so proud of it because it had three things I adore: lots of diversity, lots of well-written stories, and lots of nudity. In fact, it was the most diverse and naked issue yet at the time, and along with Elska Reykjavík, had some of the best stories. But it just didn't resonate with customers. Perhaps it was bad luck. Or perhaps there's some stereotype of Canada as [nice but] boring, which doesn't sound all that inspiring.

There was however another reason why Elska Toronto may have been less popular, something that hurt and still hurts me to think about… There had been complaints about the cover, which features a trans man with his shirt off. One shop told me that it didn't sell well because, "People were confused why there was a lesbian the cover […] gay magazines always sell less when there's a woman on there." Gender confusion aside, I found it so disappointing. And then one individual wrote in to explain that putting this particular trans man on the cover was doing a disservice to trans acceptance overall. The advice I was given was to choose a more masculine-looking, hairy, muscled trans man, rather than a smooth Asian trans man.

Maybe their insight was the cause of Elska Toronto not flying off the shelves. But if this really is the reason then fuck them — I can let Toronto show off its poor sales figures with pride. And maybe if ever I do reissue it, I'll put a big fat dick on the cover and see if that does something. Probably it would then become even more popular than Reykjavík!

Liam Campbell is editor and chief photographer of Elska Magazine, a project devoted to travelling the world, meeting local guys, and introducing them to readers through honest photography and stories.

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Liam Campbell

Liam Campbell

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Editor + Chief Photographer of Elska Magazine, a gay photography + culture mag, sharing local boys and local stories from around the world.