Elska Magazine, a publication dedicated to revealing the bodies and voices of LGBTQ communities around the world, has put the spotlight on Sydney, Australia for its latest issue. Inside readers are invited to travel virtually to the city by getting to know around a dozen ordinary local gay, queer, and trans men who are introduced through intimate photography and personal stories.
Sydney has a reputation as one of the world’s gay capitals, famous for a huge LGBTQ community, and for celebrations like Mardi Gras, arguably the world’s most famous pride celebration. The scene is vibrant yet complex — Sydney is both a beacon of hope for those seeking freedom and acceptance as well as a city that has been criticised as too conservative and too white. With Elska’s format of letting locals tell their own stories, a most sincere and unfiltered view of queer life is revealed though its various editions, yet ‘Elska Sydney’ stands out as one of the most honest editions of all. Here is a community that is at once proud of their city and also unafraid to admit where it could do better.
“Our policy at Elska has always been to leave our pages open to anyone who wanted to take part, first come first served, but early on I noticed that nearly all the men who got in touch were white” says Elska editor and chief photographer Liam Campbell. “Having read that the demographic make-up of Sydney was nearly 40% non-white though, I decided I had to try to interfere with our spontaneous recruitment model and start speaking to people of colour directly to find out why so few had been in touch. In doing so I was shocked to hear multiple stories about not wanting to take part in a publication about Sydney’s LGBTQ community because they didn’t feel welcome enough there to represent it. Some did want to join the though, and many were sure to talk about what’s good and what’s not so good about Sydney. That kind of frankness really made me proud to feature Sydney, revealing a community with a lot of passion to be better, and a feeling of responsibility that a place with such a rainbow reputation should serve all.”
‘Elska Sydney’ is divided into twelve chapters, each dedicated to a different local boy and filled with a selection of photos taken in their neighbourhoods and in their homes, dressed in their own style or sometimes not dressed at all. Their chapters also contain a personal story contributed by the men themselves. Some of the stories in the issue include: “Stephen G’s universal tale of choosing a fabulously gay yet difficult life in the big city or staying in his hometown for an easier but probably closeted life; Rhett P’s exploration of the troubles with dating as a gay trans man, but never giving up on finding love; Dan C’s story about coming to realise the exhilaration of being naked through various encounters with social nudity, such as at some of Sydney’s nude beaches; Mart B’s piece about coming to terms with his body and his gender, while also recognising that total satisfaction may never be possible; and Timur S’s uplifting epic about planning a wedding on the spur of the moment, with plenty of mishaps, plenty of joy, and all of it magical.
'Elska Sydney' is 196 pages. It is sold in select retailers around the world or from the Elska Magazine website in a classic print format or in an electronic version. A companion e-zine Elska Ekstra Sydney is also available exclusively from the website, featuring behind the scenes tales, outtakes, and other bonus content not seen in the main magazine. A list of stockists and details of the subscription service can also be found on the Elska website: elskamagazine.com.