Notes on Elska's rules of editing

Liam Campbell
Jul 25 · 3 min read

One of the unique aspects of Elska Magazine is that its content is so unlike other magazines. In fact it's only referred to as a magazine because of its periodical release schedule. Rather than being made up of celebrity interviews, fashion editorials, lifestyle advice, or advertising, Elska reads more like a sort of sexy anthropology journal. Or more accurately, it's like a slightly spruced up collection from a queer anthropologist's notes and diaries.

A selection of Elska issues, from left: issue 22 (Stockholm), issue 24 (Guadalajara), issue 23 (Dhaka)

Apart from two short introductory pieces, the rest of the text in Elska are the words of the men who volunteered to take part in the issue. As an editorial policy, we want their voices to stay true. In the same way that the men featured aren't models, they're not writers either — our primary goal is authenticity, not gloss or flourish or sensation. Therefore our editorial hand is purposefully light, focusing on fixing spelling errors or the sort of grammar mistakes or structure quirks that actually hinder comprehension. The rest should reflect the personalities of the men themselves, not Elska's personality.

However, there are a couple areas where I do demand a heavier hand in managing our content. One area is drugs. While I don't want to censor anyone's words and I also think it's useful to show how much drug use exists in the LGBTQ community, I have removed some people from Elska whose stories seemed to glamorise drugs. Their images and stories were still printed in our Elska Ekstra companion zine, but just not in the main magazine. I believe that people can make their own decisions regarding their health, but I am just not comfortable with the idea that my publication could help to normalise drug use.

In one rather extreme example, a subject decided to smoke some crystal meth during our photoshoot (and offer me some as if it was a mere cup of tea); in this instance I chose to move his content to the Elska Ekstra London zine but also to not publish any images of him smoking the drugs.

An example showing our main magazine alongside its companion, Elska Ekstra.

The second area is to do with children. I'm not talking about paedophilia, and I doubt anyone will ever submit a pro-child abuse story. I'm simply talking about wanting to separate sometimes erotic adult content from kids. For example, one participant submitted a story about losing his virginity. It's the sort of tale that's always interesting to hear, but this particular story occurred at a very young age, frequently mentioned that exact age, and included a lot of graphic detail that made it uncomfortable to read, particularly when the rest of the issue was full of naked dudes. We asked him to alter his story to make it vague how young he was, or to submit something else.

A look inside our Elska 04 (Lisbon, Portugal) issue

There have also been a few occasions of ad hoc out-of-policy editing. In our Elska Reykjavík issue for example, someone submitted a text that made him seem arrogant. Having met and liked the guy, I realised that he was probably trying to be sarcastic, but it just didn’t come across on the page. So I invited him to fix it, which he did, reflecting how lovely he really was. On the other hand, some other participants have written stories that made them seem arrogant, but in my experience meeting them they actually were arrogant, so I let the stories go ahead as they were. Yeah, it's perhaps a bitchy thing to do, but at least it's honest. Besides, it’s my magazine and I can do what I want!

Liam Campbell is editor and chief photographer of Elska Magazine, a publication about getting to know regular guys all over the world through honest photography and personal storytelling.

Liam Campbell
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