Liam Campbell, the writer, photographer and editor behind the gay bi-monthly publication Elska Magazine released a travel memoir entitled Fifteen Icelandic Swimming Pools. Inside the author presents expanded diaries and snapshots from a trip to Iceland that was intended as a mental health holiday filled with exploring landscapes, drinking coffee, and swimming in the country’s numerous and lovely municipal swimming pools.
Also known as A Gay Guide to Swimming in Iceland, each of the book’s chapters is dedicated to one of fifteen local swimming pools from around the country. The swimming pool in Iceland holds a key spot in society, akin to the pub in Britain or the shopping mall in the USA. Yet rather than its alcohol-centric or consumerism-worshipping counterparts, it’s rather more wholesome, and also delightfully homoerotic. Perhaps this is one reason why Iceland is one of the world’s major hotspots for LGBTQ travellers! In addition to the main narrative which serves as an ode to Iceland as a de-stress destination, various details of the pools are provided, some practical and some cheeky — such as how to navigate pool etiquette, how friendly the staff were, or even how hot the guys in the showers were!
“As someone with a history of mental health issues, I have become adept at sensing an oncoming meltdown; somehow I felt that a trip to Iceland would be the best remedy, so I dropped everything and just went,” says author Liam Campbell. “I've always been a real ‘icelandophile’ and have visited the country over thirty times. There’s something that always just made me feel at home and at peace there, perhaps because of the beautiful countryside, the open-minded society, and those enchanting outdoor swimming pools which are scattered throughout the country."
“Assuming that work might have been the cause of my impending breakdown, I decided to leave my camera and laptop at home,” Liam says. “But I soon felt compelled to create, realising that my work is also a source of joy and fulfillment. So I gave myself a goal to visit as many swimming pools as possible and to document them, taking pictures using my mobile phone and writing journals on paper. I also ended up doing an impromptu nude photoshoot of a local guy I met in Akureyri, something more akin to my Elska Magazine work. I then decided to compile and expand the journals, and mix in some of my snapshots of Iceland and the Akureyri boy into a book.”
The release of Fifteen Icelandic Swimming Pools coincides with the re-issue of Elska Magazine’s best-selling and long sold-out Reykjavík issue. For this reissue, Elska Reykjavík has been completely remade, selecting and editing photos from the archives of the original Reykjavík shoot trip, putting them into the publication’s new larger format, adding a couple new men and their stories, and designing a new cover. Inside readers are introduced to the city and its culture through intimate photos and personal stories from thirteen local Reykjavík men.
Fifteen Icelandic Swimming Pools is 148 pages and is available in a strictly limited edition fullcolour paperback book, published by Elska Magazine. A “bundle”, including the book as well as the Elska Reykjavík issue is also available from the Elska website.
Check out more images from Liam Campbell below.