Elska Magazine, a publication dedicated to sharing the bodies and voices of LGBTQ+ communities around the world, has put the spotlight on Bern, Switzerland for its latest issue. Inside readers can get up close with a cross section of ordinary men from the queer community of Switzerland’s de facto capital.
Each Elska edition is made in a different city, and this is Elska’s 37th issue but their first time in Switzerland; a beautiful country full of beautiful people that are presented in a beautiful publication through a combination of intimate photography and honest storytelling.
Over a dozen local men are featured in the issue, and each was shot in their homes and in their city’s streets, dressed in their own style or sometimes not dressed at all. Each also wrote a story to help readers get to know them even more, transporting readers as if they’d travelled personally to Bern and met these men in person.
“I hadn’t really considered Switzerland before,” says Elska editor and chief photographer Liam Campbell, “having dismissed it based on an assumption that it would be too perfect, and consequently too boring. As a project that has been frequently described as ‘celebrating imperfection’, it somehow didn’t seem like the right match for us.
“However, there had been strong demand among locals asking us to come visit their country, so I decided to give it a shot. First impressions though confirmed that Switzerland does seem rather flawless, and Bern is an especially pretty city — indeed our cover for the issue is our prettiest ever for sure.
“Beneath the surface however it’s clear that certainly LGBTQ+ people in Switzerland have many of the same struggles that our community has everywhere,” continues Liam. “Having beautiful mountain scenery and clean streets doesn’t make life automatically perfect after all.
“I arrived to shoot this issue just a week after marriage equality was enacted in the country, something that everyone I spoke to said took far too long to achieve, and even though a spirit of hope was washing over, it would take time for people to truly feel welcome in their own country.
“This was definitely an exciting time to come to Switzerland, and the positive spirit brought by the marriage equality referendum is perhaps why the photography and stories are more revealing than a normally reserved Swiss personality should allow. The stories were more raw and the imagery more bare than I expected.”
Some of the story highlights in this issue include: Samir H’s explanation of why he’s never been in love and doesn’t think that love is for him; Damian W’s tale of coming out in high school and how he learned to stop being afraid and to stop expecting the worst of others; Ze Luis’s reminiscence of his childhood in Africa and the local boy who made him realise that he was gay; Santino M’s story of how he became an advocate for removing the stigma of being HIV+; and Dominic N & Noah H’s dual-voiced story that reveals how there are two ways of looking at every story, and that it’s so worth listening to both perspectives.
Elska Bern is 196 pages and is available from a select group of shops around the world as well as for order online from the Elska website. Also available is a companion zine called Elska Ekstra Bern, containing four Bern men and their stories for whom there weren’t enough pages in the main mag, plus behind the scenes tales and bonus outtakes from some of the other Bern boys.
The list of stockists and details of the subscription service can also be found on the Elska website.