Elska shares the bodies and voices of queer Istanbul, the ‚Äúgayest city in the Muslim world”

August 26, 2023

Lead Pic: Sahin C

Elska, a project dedicated to sharing the bodies and voices of LGBTQ+ communities around the world, has put the spotlight on Istanbul for its latest edition. Inside, readers can get to know a cross-section of ordinary people from the LGBTQ+ community of what is claimed by many to be the gayest city in the Muslim world.

‚ÄúI must admit that I had been resistant to the idea of coming to Istanbul,‚ÄĚ says Elska editor¬†and chief photographer Liam Campbell. “Despite many messages that the city would make¬†for a perfect setting for Elska, I simply was clouded by the notion that any Muslim-majority¬†place would be antithetical to a project about celebrating queer life.

Hakan T

“But when one local¬†gay man wrote with passionate insistence that Istanbul absolutely had to be an Elska city,¬†and that he knew loads of people who would be interested in doing a photoshoot and story¬†for us, I knew I had to budge. So I booked flights, asked him to spread the world, and¬†hoped I‚Äôd been wrong.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúAlmost immediately upon arriving I saw how much I misjudged the place. Istanbul was not¬†only one of the easiest places to find subjects, but they were also incredibly open. The¬†stories they offered were honest, and the images they allowed me to capture were relaxed,¬†unposed, and revealing. Istanbul truly proved to be an ideal Elska city.‚ÄĚ

Furkan Y

Inside Elska Istanbul and the companion zine Elska Ekstra Istanbul over 20 locals are introduced, comprising various members of the city’s LGBTQ+ community. Each did a photoshoot, with some images shot in their city’s streets and some shot in their homes, enabling readers to feel like they’re right there next to them.

Each also was invited to write a story of their own, bringing readers even closer. These stories vary in topic and spirit, including:

Ekin K and Emrullah T

‚ÄĘ Ekin K‚Äôs piece about what it was like to be part of the very first gay couple to marry in¬†Turkey, and how this made him and his husband proud role models for all of LGBTQ+¬†Turkey;

‚ÄĘ Furkan Y‚Äôs confessional on dealing with the darker side of Turkish society, a growing¬†conservative and religious contingent that targets homosexuals as a primary enemy;

Efe B

‚ÄĘ Efe B‚Äôs description of a typically hard-going morning after a typically excessive Istanbul¬†Saturday night, proof that Istanbul is not so unlike a Berlin or Amsterdam;

‚ÄĘ Mert E‚Äôs story that shows how despite losing some friends and family members after¬†coming out, it was still the best decision he ever made.

Elska Istanbul is 180 pages and is available from a select group of shops around the world as well as for order online from the Elska website. In addition, the companion zine Elska Ekstra Istanbul is available, including hundreds of pages of outtakes, behind the scenes tales, and the stories and photos of over a dozen more beautiful Istanbulites.

The list of stockists and details of the subscription service can also be found on the Elska website.