Elska is a project centered on traveling around the world, meeting some everyday local gay guys, and introducing their city to our readers through honest photography and personal stories. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it! The latest issue documents a trip to Athens, Greece.
Below, photographer Liam Campbell shares exclusively with GayCities a selection of photos along with a bit of behind-the-scenes commentary about each.
My trip to Athens was full of unforgettable moments, but the top of that list came courtesy of Andreas. He told me to meet him at Syntagma Square, bang in the center of town. As with most Elska photoshoots, I assumed we’d take a walk in his chosen area and snap pics as we explored. Instead, he pulled up on a bright orange Vespa and gestured for me to get on. So, I grabbed hold of Andreas and held tight!
Andreas went on to give me a comprehensive tour of the city. He asked me to look out for shoot locations, but I was too transfixed by the sights to utter a word. There was so much to choose from! Athens is chock full of ancient ruins, grand buildings, and enticing urban street scenes. Eventually, we sort of gave up, pulled over, and just started walking, snapping pics as we went. It was an amazing introduction to the city.
The more I learned about Athenians, I discovered their intense love for the islands. They long to escape the city summer heat of summer by finding a breezy paradise for stripping down and lazing on a beach.
Konstantinos told me that he can’t stand Athens in the summer, and that last year he chose to decamp to Mykonos, perhaps the gayest island in the world. There he found a temporary job in the leisure industry before returning home to Athens at the end of the tourist season. I wonder where Konstantinos is spending his summer…
After a few days in Athens, you start to appreciate the eclectic chaos of the city – especially the nighitlife. Something Marcos and a lot of the guys I met here told me was how much Greeks appreciate leisure, that they live for a good night out.
Certainly, I enjoyed plenty of fantastic dinners and found some interesting bars to destress in after each day of shooting. The only issue (or blessing) was that the parties are inescapable. They went on so late and were so loud that I could barely sleep each night – it became a choice of closing the windows and sweating or keeping them open and having the sound of music and shouting keeping me awake.
In the end, I chose to join in the festivities. Athenians are good at living each fun moment to the absolute fullest.
I’ve always been a cat lover. Anyone who has read Elska before will have probably spotted various cats throughout the magazine. Sometimes I shoot a guy cuddling up with his pet, and sometimes cats seem to just sneak into the frame. Perhaps a napping kitty on a street corner in the background?
So, I was pretty happy when I started editing the photographs I took in Athens and saw just how many cats made it into the mix. How many cats made it into Elska Athens? I won’t say. Though, if anyone can spot and count every single one, let us know and I’ll send you a free prize.
Throughout my travels in Athens, I discovered the difference between the antics of tourists on the islands with how real everyday Greeks would behave. People were much more nervous, and many assumed that nudity was a required element of the Elska photoshoot. It took a lot of reassurance that this isn’t the case. Every participant can reveal as much as they want, and that their comfort level is of the most importance.
Eventually, I was able to find a dozen local guys up for taking part, and then something unexpected happened. Once we were actually together, many of them chose to reveal it all. It was as if they suddenly felt empowered, and comfortable enough, to match the wild and free reputation of Greece. What I imagined to become one of our most reserved issues eventually became one of the boldest – Greece surprised me so much.
Yuri K + Cozi G
My final shoot in Athens was with Yuri K. A few days before we met he asked if it was OK to bring “a friend” along for the photo shoot, and I agreed. To be honest, having extra people around during a session makes me a little self-conscious, but I figured that it was worth the suffering if it meant that Yuri would be more at ease.
So, we did the photoshoot just of Yuri, with his friend Cozi just tagging along, carrying bags, and offering moral support. But then when we got to Yuri’s place for the indoor portion of the shoot, I started to realise that Cozi was more than a friend.
With this in mind, I decided to invite Cozi to join Yuri for the final scene of the shoot. There they cuddled up on the bed and made a bit of magic. It became one of my favorite photoshoots, especially after Yuri’s kitten decided to jump up on the bed and also join the scene. There I snapped that image that became the issue’s back cover.
Elska Athens is out now in a limited edition print version or in an e-version. A companion zine Elska Ekstra Athens is also available with outtakes, behind-the-scenes tales, extra boys, and extra stories.