Elska Magazine, a publication dedicated to sharing the bodies and voices of LGBTQ communities around the world, has put the spotlight on Bern, Switzerland for its latest issue. Inside readers can get up close with a cross section of ordinary men from the queer community of Switzerland’s de facto capital.
Each Elska edition is made in a different city, and this is Elska’s thirty-seventh issue but their first time in Switzerland. This a beautiful country full of beautiful people that are presented in a beautiful publication through a combination of intimate photography and honest storytelling. Over a dozen local men are featured in the issue, and each was shot in their homes and in their city’s streets,dressed in their own style or sometimes not dressed at all. Each also wrote a story to help readers get to know them even more, transporting readers as if they’d travelled personally to Bern and met these men in person.
I hadn’t really considered Switzerland before, having dismissed it based on an assumption that it would be too perfect, and consequently too boring. As a project that has been frequently described as ‘celebrating imperfection’, it somehow didn’t seem like the right match for us. However, there had been strong demand among locals asking us to come visit their country, so I decided to give it a shot. First impressions though confirmed that Switzerland does seem rather flawless, and Bern is an especially pretty city — indeed our cover for the issue is our prettiest ever for sure.
Beneath the surface however it’s clear that certainly LGBTQ people in Switzerland have many of the same struggles that our community has everywhere. Having beautiful mountain scenery and clean streets doesn’t make life automatically perfect after all. I arrived to shoot this issue just a week after marriage equality was enacted in the country, something that everyone I spoke to said took far too long to achieve, and even though a spirit of hope was washing over, it would take time for people to truly feel welcome in their own country. This was definitely an exciting time to come to Switzerland, and the positive spirit brought by the marriage equality referendum is perhaps why the photography and stories are more revealing than a normally reserved Swiss personality should allow. The stories were more raw and the imagery more bare than I expected. -- Elska editor and chief photographer Liam Campbell