Q&A: Michael Behlen - Founder of PRYME Editions /w Lomography France

This article was originally published on Lomography France on July 14th 2017.

Michael Behlen - Founder of PRYME Editions

Michael Behlen - Founder of PRYME Editions

Hello Michael! Could you introduce yourself to the Lomography Community and tell us a bit about your background?
I spent the first 4 years of my photographic career shooting digitally. I started out shooting bands in my local music scene and progressed to running a small portrait and wedding business. After working with these types of clients I felt like something was missing from my photography and my lifestyle. At the end of 2010 I swore off digital photography in an explosive way. Within a couple of weeks, I sold all my bodies, lenses, and lighting equipment to swear off the ridiculous amount of time I spent editing images behind a computer. I wanted to get away from my computer screen that I already spent 8 hours a day behind at my day job. I found inspiration in Mikael Kennedy's series Passport to Trespass and I picked up my first eBay SX-70. 

At the time, the Impossible Project had just launched their beta Polaroid film so I grabbed some of their film hoping to find a new creative outlet that didn't require any screen time. Soon after, I experienced my first outing with my old and half-working SX-70 and just produced Impossible Project Polaroid film. The images I shot that day were not perfect and barely usable by anyone's standards. However, the moments I captured that day are some of my fondest memories. Not only because I was with close friends, but because a beautiful analog machine of the past was brought back to life, and along with it, my photographic spirit. I felt like I finally found a way to express myself without having to result to a workflow on a computer to accomplish an end image. The instant gratification of getting lost in a real life workflow that resulted in a product here and now is energizing and magical. This is how I started down my path of an instant film addiction.

Some of Behlen's First Polaroid Images

Some of Behlen's First Polaroid Images

What is the story behind PRYME Editions?
PRYME Editions was originally founded as PRYME Magazine May 2014. The idea came to me while I was sitting in my backyard having a beer with a great photographer and friend, Franklin Lopez. I was complaining about the lack of exposure that instant photographers received as a whole and the lack of an outlet for them to show their work. 30 minutes into the conversation PRYME Magazine was born. I decided that if no one else was going to do it, that I would. The next 6 months were spent contacting instant film artists and asking them to be apart of this crazy project. To my surprise, all of them said yes! 6 Months later in October 2014, the first issue of PRYME Magazine came out titled: Instant Revolution. During that short period of time I taught myself basic skills of: website creation and management, Adobe Indesign, and Journalism and Interviewing. Little did I know that the first 6 months was just the start.

Eventually we put out 5 issues of PRYME Magazine and featured 75+ artists within our pages and blog over the course of about 18 months. We met an insane amount of wonderful analog photographers and retail store owners that supported us and showed us more love than I could have ever imagined. However, this all came to a sudden halt in November 2015. We were out of money and kept loosing it. Though we never intended to operate the 'zine as a way to make money, we were in a tough position. Faced with the decision of operating at a continual loss vs closing our doors, we did just that. We stopped producing 'zines and froze our website. That was the end of PRYME Magazine.

During and after the time of the 'zines shut down we experienced an outcry from our fans, friends, and family. They were all so disappointed that one of the only avenues for our small niche was no longer. After receiving more and more encouragement from the instant artists of the world we decided we would give it another shot. So in July of 2016, we re-launched as PRYME Editions. Instead of focusing on curating hundreds of images and multiple artists into quarterly 'zines, we would use the skills we had learned over the last three years to promote individual instant film artists. We would do this by publishing special limited edition individual artist books on our website and do our best to prop up artists we truly felt deserved and needed the recognition. In the last year, we have worked with three different artists to print and produce three books and one exhibition. To our delight, all three of these projects have been a great success. 

We are currently working on our book releases for early 2018. Stay tuned for more details on this.

2017 Annual Journal

2017 Annual Journal

You are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to produce a 2017 Annual Journal, why did you decide to do this project?
After receiving such a grand reception of our three individual photobooks this past year, I had a longing to produce something along the lines of our first five publications. I knew that I wanted a project that would grant exposure to more than just three photographers in printed form. I also knew that I wanted to produce something that was of higher quality in both material and design than our previous multiple artist publications. The only thing holding us back was funding. We simply didn't have the funds to invest, and to be honest, any large amounts of money in our own accounts to take on such a project. After seeing the success that She Shoot Film and Optiko Journal had on crowdfunding websites, we were convinced that we could do the same. So just as fast we created PRYME Magazine and PRYME Editions, we launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to act as a pre-sale agent to fund out 170+ page instant film Annual Journal. I am proud to say that as of 07/12/17 we have reached 102% of our $6,500 goal. With 12 days left of our campaign, we hope that we will reach the $10,000 mark and get this Annual Journal into the hands of as many people as possible. 

We can see that diverse photographers already submitted their photos for the journal and that you are going to feature different styles. Can you tell us about the process of curating the works you receive?
The best and worst thing about selecting artists for your own blog and publications is being able to select the work that speaks to you the most. On the positive side, you become really passionate about the work you are able to promote and feature. On the negative side, you are at the public's mercy of what they will appreciate. Art is very subjective and it's difficult to be on the winning side of every reader. Fortunately, we are able to feature works by really big artists in our scene and also support the artists that need the most exposure. We look to maintain a balance between the two to ensure that the work being presented is honest. The great thing about the instant film community is how small it is. A large majority of us know each other and have at least spoken to each other a couple of times. This often leads to an incredibly positive and supportive community that promotes one another with no specific gain for the individual. I have often been contacted by other photographers and asked to feature individuals that they admire. This is something that I have not found in other areas of the art would. 

To answer your question directly, we curate on a whim. We don't know what we are looking for until it is put in front of us. The instant film world is so diverse that it is relatively easy to curate a huge number of unique artists on a regular basis due to the very nature of the art form and community. We aim to promote and publish artists that have transferred their hearts and souls into their Polaroid camera. We have the same passion as they do, and an addiction to the medium that can be instantly recognized by others with the same.

You are an instant photography enthusiast, tell us more about your passion for this photographic medium. 
They say that "If you want to learn what someone fears losing, watch what they photograph". (Quote Unknown) I think this is an incredibly insightful statement. I definitely write the story of a man who is trying to find something that is lost in everyday modern life. I think that this statement encompasses my personal freedom that I have willingly lost by making a variety of increasingly responsible decisions. These decisions benefit my life in the long term, but in the short time depress me and traps me into a self made box. I try to escape these feelings of entrapment by finding special places in nature that allow me feel alive and free with my camera. With this, I would love to say that I create images in a certain way with a specific intent; however, that statement would be a lie. I don’t have anything esoteric to offer with my photography. What I do have are quick 1/60th of a second stories that gives the viewer a glimpse into a rare moment of stillness of my ever changing mind. The art of photography is my way of meditating and becoming one with my machine of choice, a Polaroid Camera.

These days, we can see quite a trend for publishing and printing as a lot of publishing houses are created and we can see more and more self-published books. As a publisher, do you agree with this idea? Do you feel like people tend to go back to printed media these days?
The only thing I can say is the more the merrier. Every single publisher and artist that releases a self-published book brings their audience something tangible to hold, cherish, and collect. In this modern age of digital everything, I believe that photographs, especially instant ones, should be held in your hands like the originals.

I often ponder how the world will progress as technology improves farther and farther. Will it improve to the point where human interaction is no longer needed and we receive all of our input from a screen or computer? My hypothesis is that with every generation where technology removes us from each other, there will be a younger more nostalgic generation attempting to hold onto it, to bring back the old ways of interacting. With our generation, it happens to be holding onto the print medium. Perhaps in generations to come they will be holding onto cameras themselves as photography expands into technology like Google Glass. If the prior generation fights hard enough, and with enough passion, we may not have to fight the eventual battle against pure computer technology and pure human interaction. The world may embrace these tangible artistic products in the wake of our scientific achievements and there will be a type of harmony between the two.

Who or what inspires you? And who are your favorite photographers ? 
Beyond my first experience shooting of Impossible film in 2010, I have always carried my SX-70 with me on my hikes around lakes, on beaches, and through the mountains. The hours I have spent in nature have inspired me and brought symmetry to my life. Symmetry is important because you either find in your life or in your photography. For me it’s in my photography. I compose symmetrically pleasing images because it brings balance and calm to my life. This doesn’t mean I shoot 100 percent perfectly straight horizons or scenes, but that’s okay, because life doesn’t work that way either. I love the unpredictability of the medium; its addictive qualities as you watch it develop. It’s important to bring yourself into your photography, including your own imperfections. It’s what makes them real. A real way of getting lost in yourself and your surroundings.

My favorite photographers happen to include many that I am able to feature in the PRYME Editions Annual Journal. They include: Mikael Kennedy, Bastian Kalous, Matt Smith, Brian Henry, Thomas Zamolo. and Herr Merzi. Each of these artists have a unique style and use instant film to suite their artistic needs, They are not Polaroid photographers because they are hipsters or because it is a fad. These individuals truly live in the moment and display this through their diverse bodies of work.

Which book would you recommend to anyone?
If you have never picked up a 'zine by Mikael Kennedy I suggest you do so. He is the artist the inspired me to pick up a Polaroid camera for myself. You may be able to find a copy of one of his Passport to Trespass series on eBay or on collectors sites. They are well worth the purchase. 

For a non-instant photobook (but still analog), I would recommend picking up Nils Karlson's brand new book Eyes Like Slumber. It was just released and it is the best book I have picked up all year. It contains magical long exposures of the ocean that inspire calm and turmoil at the same time. I highly recommend this to any analog photography fan. 

For a book with actual words. I recommend The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke. 


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Michael Behlen is a photography enthusiast from Fresno, CA. He works in finance and spends his free time shooting instant film and seeing live music, usually a combination of the two. He is the founder of PRYME Editions. Connect with Michael Behlen on his Website and on Instagram!