Belfast – a city with deep historical roots and a promising future. Part of that bright future is the ever growing LGBTQ+ community and its journey to equality and acceptance. Elska magazine, a publication that explores LGBTQ+ communities world wide, has turned the lime light on Northern Ireland in its latest issue, to introduce the world to the men of Belfast.
Through a series of intimate portraits and stories, the latest issue of Elska, highlights how Belfast’s LGBTQ+ community is blossoming, with recent milestones towards equality, such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage earlier this year.
This issue is a homage to mark Belfast’s bright and bold LGBTQ+ future. “I am always very interested in stereotypes, both how they are true and untrue,” says Elska editor and chief photographer Liam Campbell. “I knew about Northern Ireland’s unique political legacy but wanted to see beyond it. In reality though, this legacy still has a strong impact, and indeed most of the men I met here brought up the topic in some way, usually decrying how it has held back the LGBTQ community.”
Campbell also speaks about the two-way street regarding stereotypes heavily, including those of fetishisation:”I also encountered another stereotype though, after I started getting loads of messages on social media from people saying they hoped the issue would be ‘full of gingers.’ It annoyed me because of the fetishisation of a particular hair colour and because it simply isn’t true that the island of Ireland is all gingers.”
“But then during one shoot with a ginger guy, he talked about how proud he was of his hair because of how much he was teased at school for it. He proudly filled my camera with his long, red hair, and one of those images became the cover of the issue. The cover was in part me saying, “You want ginger? Here you go!” and also a way of honouring this man and his pride.”
The Elska Belfast issue is divided into 11 chapters, each dedicated to different men of Belfast and filled with a selection of photos taken in their neighbourhoods and in their homes, dressed in their own style and sometimes nude.
The chapters also contain personal stories contributed by the men themselves. Some of the stories reflect how Belfast’s gay scene is growing, leaving behind the need to be discreet; some discuss politics and conservative social norms, revealing how heavy a burden can still create shame; and some stories are more frivolous, such as the provocative antics of a legendary drag queen, or a night out of drinking and eating chips.
Elska Belfast is sold in select retailers around the world or from their website in print format or in an electronic version. Visit elskamagazine.com to read the Belfast issue and past issues of the magazine.
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