Before visiting Lyon, France, for the first time earlier this year, photographer and editor Liam Campbell says he’d long bought into the stereotype of the French as “wild” and “sexually charged” people.
Instead, Campbell found Lyon to be a beautiful city with a “proud, positive and open” queer community. He’s photographed and profiled 15 gay men from the city for the latest issue of Elska, which hit newsstands this week.
The 172-page issue, he said, is the “most seductive” edition of the bimonthly queer culture and lifestyle magazine in the three years since its founding.
“We’ve had a good contingent of French readers since the beginning, and after 20 issues, it felt well overdue to visit the country,” Campbell told HuffPost. “I personally have a sort of second city bias. I knew that Paris would offer amazing settings and interesting and diverse participants, but I wanted our first venture into France to be less expected.”
Elska ― which translates to “love” in Icelandic ― has established a unique reputation in LGBTQ media. As Campbell puts it, the magazine focuses on “regular” men, as opposed to celebrities and models, in an effort to show that “everyone is beautiful, sexy and lovable.” The magazine has featured pictorials shot in Bogotá, Colombia; Mumbai, India; and Haifa, Israel, among other world cities.
In essays accompanying the photo series, the men get frank about their family lives, their adventures in love and their struggles. One of the magazine’s subjects, identified as Julien R., takes an “honest, poetic” look back at his romantic conquests, while another, Milan E., discusses the difficulty he had moving on from a relationship.
Marriage equality became the law of the land in France in 2013, and the country is overall regarded as an LGBTQ-inclusive destination. Still, Campbell says he found many of the queer-owned businesses and associations in Lyon to be under-patronized, and a few of the men featured in the magazine told him they wished for “more dedicated queer spaces and activism.”
“There’s a sense that there’s nothing to fight for, but there’s still so much,” Campbell said, citing as an example the ongoing lack of knowledge around HIV prevention medications like pre-exposure prophylaxis.
View more photos from Elska’s latest issue below: