Liam Campbell is editor and photographer of the indie print mag, Elska, a project that involves traveling around the world, getting to know some regular local guys, and introducing them and their city through honest photography and personal stories.
The photos for this article were shot in beautiful Perth, Australia.
Liam exclusively shares with GayCities a selection of photos along with a bit of behind the scenes commentary about each guy.
Before I got to Australia I had this wrong impression that it would be all just suburban sprawl, but although Perth is indeed spread out, it still has a compact and bustling city center. One of the best places to see the city is from Elizabeth Quay, which is where Peter suggested we meet, and where a few other guys also wanted to hang out. The only trouble was that we had to fight for space to get a skyline view with other camera crews, one for a TV newscast, and another for a wedding party. But once we got the shots we had a wander along the boardwalk and got plenty of other sweet pics.
Another place that a few of the guys suggested for a meeting spot was Swanbourne Beach. Perth has loads of fantastic beaches, but this is the city’s best known nude and gay-friendly stretch of sand. However, even though Owey suggested the place, it turned out that he was a bit shy to actually get naked himself. But eventually, he got into the spirit and forgot about the camera. Later when we finished and walked back to the car park, we said goodbye and I thought he was going home. But when I looked into my rear view mirror as I drove away, I saw him scuttling back down to the beach for some more frolicking time!
One of the things I noticed quickly about Australians, or at least about Perthians in general, is that they’re very easy-going and up for anything. I remember when shooting Drew I asked him to sit on a bit of grass near a skyline view for a few shots. The zoomed-in pic here was the first one I took, but then I asked him to change position slightly, after which a little something popped out from his short shorts. I blushed and quickly told him what happened, but he just said, “Oh, it’s cool, you can still take the shot.” And so I did, and that’s the shot which I chose to print in the final magazine but, well, not here.
Another thing I noticed about Perth folks is that they’re very casual, whether that’s in how they dress (which you might call sloppy), the sarcastic way they talk (which at first I took as rude), and also the relaxed attitude toward urban aesthetics, which means that it’s not uncommon to see an old sofa dumped onto the side of the road. When I saw this street couch in Henry’s neighborhood, I couldn’t resist using it for a scene. I loved the pics we took there so much that I used one for a cover design, but some of the people I showed it to said it might give a bad impression of Perth. I suppose I could understand that – actually Perth is a really clean and quite orderly place, but just with some abandoned furniture here and there.
One of my favorite things about Perth was the coffee. There are so many fantastic little independent cafés with baristas who seem like they have masters degrees in coffeeology. With almost all of the guys I met in Perth, we started by meeting at a café for a drink and a chat. My favorite place was Bossman in Mount Lawley, which was all dark wood paneling, gold incandescent lighting, and homemade Greek pastries that the barista told me his Greek neighbor made. Jordan and I had a lovely coffee before our shoot and then a cool walking tour through the city center as I got to know him.
I never told Nathan this, but the decision to choose Perth over any other city in Australia was down to him. I’d actually been following him on Instagram for a couple of years after seeing him on a certain well-known TV baking competition, and when I decided to try bringing Elska to Australia, I decided to message him for advice on which city. To my surprise, he responded, said great things about his native Perth, and also said he’d be up for taking part. A little star-struck, I decided to give Perth a shot, partly to meet him. Later when we did meet in person, even though I always thought I wasn’t seduced by celebrity, I found myself really nervous. But after a little while, you realize that he is just a person like anyone else, and quite a nice one too.
After sixteen cities, Perth definitely had the most smiley, happy-go-lucky people I’d ever come across, which is why Perth was the first and still only issue to have a smile on the cover. Life is clearly good here, or people just know how to look on the bright side. Being there rubbed off on me too, so much so that my usually shy nature drifted away enough for me to turn on some of the gay apps and be social. When I saw Allan online I even had the courage to say something silly like, “I think you’re crazy handsome,” and I guess it worked because the next day I squeezed him in for a night shoot.
Elska Perth is out now in a limited edition print version, in an e-version, and in a bundle including a behind-the-scenes companion zine called Elska Ekstra Perth.