NSFW Q&A: EXPIRED EIGHT /W STEFAN MERZ

This is the 20th edition of our Q&A blog series titled "The Expired Eight". Our aim is to highlight instant film photographers using expired film in a variety of formats. Today's Q&A is with Stefan Merz, known to the world as the photographer Herr Merzi

Stefan Merz is an analog photographer from Frankfurt Germany. Merz tries to create atmospheres with his photos, sometimes exotic and fantasy-like, sometimes familiar scenes of everyday life. He captures and evokes emotion, telling little stories with each click of the shutter. There is a mood of intimacy in his photos, where the nudity of the models is natural, and is secondary, really, to the rest of the story being told by the photos. Merz postulates that when the models he photographs are nude, their true selves emerge. There is no clothing, no costume, no artifice to hide behind.  The look in their eyes is genuine, their expressions a bit stronger, and this authenticity is one of the things that compels him to shoot fine art nudes.  

Merz began his photographic journey through the once popular Suicide Girls website in early 2007. His girlfriend at the time completed a photo shoot with an official Suicide Girls photographer in Germany and the results presented were less than satisfying. Merz knew he could do a better job himself! It was at this moment that he bought himself his first DSLR and within the next year his work was published and his girlfriend became an official Suicide Girl. As time progressed during his first to years as a photographer he had a total of 5 photographic sets hit the front page of Suicide Girls but realized shortly that the website valued free content they could profit from and not true photographic art. 

Since Merz's awareness of this reality, he has jumped headfirst into analog photography with expired Polaroid film to produce artistically satisfying fine art nude images. Merz's work has been widely exhibited and recognized. His photos have been exhibited as part of Expolaroid in Nantes and Rennes, France; at the Blackbox Gallery in Portland, Oregon; and at ART Undressed in Miami, Florida. His photos have been featured in print magazines, including Klassik Magazine and Mein Heimlich Auge #31 Erotic Yearbook. Merz's photos have also been featured on online platforms, including the Paul Giambarbra website, the Impossible Project, and the Polaroid of the Day.

Connect with Stefan Merz on Instagram!

Tell us about when instant film came into your life and what inspired to you to keep using it:
I shot my first Polaroid in the mid 80's when I was a child. It was totally fascinating to watch the development of the picture. It was a magic moment. But Polaroids where expensive, so my family was more into 35mm film. After starting with photography in 2007 (digital at this time) I've missed something in my work so I've got back to 35mm film first, than up to medium format, and started with Polaroids in 2010. Polaroids are small unique pieces of art if you use it in the right way. There is no chance of post processing etc. so I have to think first and create a scene and then pull the trigger to create the photo I had in mind.

What attracted you to Expired Film. What's your favorite to use? 
It's all about the look! I love the color-shifts, the soft tones, and the imperfection of the expired films. Each pack of film is a little surprise (unfortunately not always in a positive way). My favorites are well stored Polaroid 669/559/Type 59/Type79 and 809 but, I also like the Type54 B&W film!

How do you describe your work and how do you decide what subjects to photograph? What sorts of things capture your attention?
Well, I'm a nude art photographer, so the decision of my subjects is very easy. I try not to get stuck in one style and change the way I work from time to time. Some people think it's bad for an artist not to have one style but I'm a freelance artist, so I use the style that fits best for the scenery I shoot. That’s why I always travel with a trunk full of cameras and different films. I love this kind of challenge.

What are the main difficulties and hurdles obtaining and using expired film in this format?
The most difficult part of using expired film is to find a good source for it. Unfortunately, the times where you can buy a lot of films on Ebay are definitely gone. Most eBay sellers don’t know what they are selling or can't give information about the storage. Also, prices have risen extremely since Fuji stopped production of the  instant pack films FP-3000b and FP-100c.,

But if you've found a good source for films (like photo-studios, who have old stock in their storage rooms etc.) it's relative easy to work with. Most of the time the speed is a little bit lower so I rate my Type 669 to ISO 50 and then fine tune my settings a little bit if the the results are not satisfactory. The color shifts of the film sometimes do not fit the scene you are shooting, that’s a problem if you didn’t use a camera with changeable backs like the Polaoid 600SE.

What types of Instant Cameras do you own?  Which One is your favorite and why?
If you would ask my girlfriend I definitely own to many cameras, but is this possible??? Each camera is different, has another type of film, some are more versatile, some are special (like the Macro 5 SLR). I could never own only one camera.

  • Polaroid 600SE with 127mm lens
  • Polaroid 180
  • 2x Polaroid SLR680 (one for B&W, one for Color Film)
  • 1x Polaroid SLR680 Studio Mod (fixed f8 + infrared Filter in front of the internal flash to trigger the Studiolights)
  • Graflex Speed Graphic with Aero Ektar 2.5/178mm (for 4x5 and sometimes also 3x4 Film)
  • Plaubel Peco Profia 8x10 (for 8x10 Polaroids / Impossible Project)
  • Polaroid 110B with Instax Wide Back (self-made)
  • Polaroid SX70 Sonar
  • Polaroid Spectra
  • Polaroid Macro 5 SLR

And a lot of plastic Type 600 Cameras friends gave me (“look what I've found at my grandma's house, I'm sure you like it….”). I love and use all the cameras listed above (except the Macro 5 SLR and the plastic Type 600, these are only decorations).

Any tips for those interested in experimenting?
Unfortunately not! I would not recommend to anybody to start with expired Polaroids these days because it's to hard to find, to rare, and to expensive. It is highly addictive. I am an Polaroid addict and I know what I'm talking about!

Now seriously: the freshest date Polaroids you can buy are expired 2009, That’s 8 years old now, and with each single sheet of film someone shoots in the world, the stock on the free market shrinks a little bit. Time is against us because the batteries in Type600/SX70 film are limited in lifetime, and the chemicals are drying out. So the current time for experiments in instant film is really not the best.

If you are insane enough to start in 2017 with Polaroids, you have to live with the fact that a lot of “always stored cool but can't test it…” material on eBay etc. are dead packs of film with dried-out chemicals, so it can easy happen that you waste a lot of money before you take your first real Polaroid. I had the luck to build up my stock of films when Polaroid films were relatively cheap and fresh (because Fuji produced good and cheap FP-100c at this time), so I can shoot original Polaroids for some time. But the end is near! I realized that my proper stored stock is dying slowly in my fridge so I have to use it in the next 2-3 years before they die completely.

When you are not shooting expired Polaroid film, what film are you shooting and why?
Easy answer: fresh Instant film and sometimes normal B&W/Slide/Negative-Film. I work a lot with Impossible Project Film (for Type600/Spectra/SX70 and 8x10) and had the chance to test some of their Beta films. They have made make big steps forward with there R&D and I love thier films. I also work with Instax Wide in my Polaroid 110B but its not the same to me like the original Polaroid films. Results are too clean to be artistic but nice for normal photos.

Do you have any instant photographers that inspire you?
I follow a lot of instant photographers on Instagram etc, to many to list. each of them inspire me in a subtle way. If you are new in Instant Photography (or long in the business and didn’t know it), I could highly recommend the Facebook Group “The Polavoid”, founded by Britt Grimm Valentine. It's the best group for Polaroid pro's and newcomers.


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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!


NSFW Q&A: Raúl Diaz's Photobook Cadarve Exquis

Raúl Diaz, best known as RRRDIAZ, was born in Santiago de Chile in 1968 and miseducated in the United States through his adolescent years where he studied at the New York at School of Visual Arts and eventually graduated from the Corcoran School of Arts in Washington with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in photography. In 1990, he moved to Paris, France and began his career as a fashion photographer where he became the assistant of big names in fashion photography like Mario Testino or JB Mondino. In 2009, after a short but busy career in fashion photography, he decided to open En Face, a boutique-gallery devoted to instant photography. His store was the first store to sell Impossible Project film locally in Paris and he hosted numerous exhibitions featuring artists from around the world at his location. Diaz has has since become one of the major players in the international instant film community including being apart of the renowned 12:12 Mens' Polaroid ProjectDiaz's current work focuses on the female nude which allows him to tell his imaginative stories with a softness and mood that he would otherwise be unable to obtain. His images display a combination of glamour and nostalgia, resulting in incredible and evocative photographs that blur the line between the sexual and sensual.

PRYME Editions had the opportunity to sit down with Diaz and talk about his newest project and first book Cadarve Exquis, published by Les Petites Editions in April 2017. Cadarve Exquis is both the look into the female form in an attempt to glorify all of its beauty and the confidence and relationship between the photographer and model, shown to us through the experimentation of different films, lighting, colors, and Polaroid techniques. Diaz's book contains 12 photographic essays inspired by the themes of the 2016 12:12 Mens' Project and is displayed over 150 beautiful pages in the 8" x 8" format. It is limited to just 200 copies and it is almost sold out! You can pick up your copy here! Connect with Raul Diaz on his website and on Instagram

Hi Raul! Thanks for taking the time to speak to me this morning, I know its about Dinner time there? How are you? 
Good & hungry jejeje ... 

Before we get talking about your newest work, can you tell me about your history with photography in general and when you started shooting in the instant format as a medium? 
I started shooting Polaroids at the age of 14. I got a Polaroid One-Step for my birthday and it was love at first feel. Then, at the age of 16, I started working at Tower Records and started to shoot the peeps that worked with me against the different color backgrounds that the shop had. I used the camera we had there that was usually just used for when we caught someone stealing. Later in art school, I got tired of the technology brainwashing and decided to make Polaroid my thing. No retouch, full frame, and honest photography.

Do you use any specific cameras to capture your images? 
Polaroid cameras are as cool as the process. I collect them really. I have and use all sorts. Different ones for different projects like the Macro 3 (normally used by dermatologists), the CU-5 used for dentistry, and of course the classics like the SX-70, the Specta image system, however my real love is for the Polaroid SLR680. This camera is the one I use almost always. It really gives me what I want as far as framing , sensibility, and film speed. It's an auto focus and flash camera, but it also lets you turnoff  those features to create your own lighting and focal points. I have 5 of those just in case. They used to be sold at about 120 dollars but now they run from 400 to 500 bucks.

Your work is centered around the female form, generally in the nude. What draws you to their figure and what inspires you to present it in your unique fashion? 
Well ... I love women in general. I love their sensibility, their strength, and their softness. I think that if I treated the ideas I shoot with men, the images would relay a different message. My stories are sometimes too strong and with a guy they might come out as to aggressive. Women inspire power in me. I like to put them in charge, to let them take control. They can take on difficult subjects and render them more positive and relay a message in a softer way. 

Your work is sexual, but not in a pornographic way. In my opinion, your work is not ABOUT the nudity, but the use of it to share ideas, stories and themes. What would you say to others that may try to put your work into a box, say an overly sexualized one?
Yes my work is a lot about the body. The nude has always been an artists fantasy. In painting, sculpture, and even from the beginning of photography, the nude has been used to express everything from love and sensuality, to loss and despair. The emotion that comes from a woman's expression is just more honest. I really don't think that my images exploit women and I don't really try to express sexuality that much. Sure an uneducated audience might just see tits and ass, but the message I try to relay is not about sex. I would say that before you judge, learn a bit of art history.

Do you feel like your audience is greater outside of United States? As an American myself, your work is a breath of fresh air. However, I know as a country, we have a (sometimes) uniquely conservative idea of what art should be. What has your reception been like in the states?
It's true that the US is way more conservative when it come to language and nudity. I live in France where they show underwear to sell cheese and wine and swear on TV and yes, even on Sunday. Again that is part of their education. If one is told that to show the body is bad, dirty or shameful, it creates a barrier between reality and fantasy. It frustrates. So far my American audience has welcomed my images and seems to look past the body to read the message itself.

How do you see the evolution of your type of work in the photographic community? I would definitely classify your work as on the "cutting edge", ironically using instant film. 
I'm almost certain that among the first Polaroids ever taken, was a nude. Instant film cut out the middleman and let people be much more private in their photographic work. No lab, no other eyes, just you and me baby. And for that fact, I don't feel that my work is that much more original or cutting edge than the work that has been done throughout photo history. I am however very pleased that you think so.

Do you foresee a shift in the art world when it comes embracing the analog medium? Not in a "hipster" way, but treating it as a more "serious" art form?
Oh Yes! I have made my art a battle against the synthetic, the pixel, and the virtual. I really think that people have woken up and finally seen the value of the physical and real. Apart from instant photography, there seems to be a real tendency to go even farther back in history. Photographers have been rediscovering techniques like wet-plate collodion and other original photographic processes. In the US, there are people that have even taken on the task or reinventing old film emulsions like the crew at New55, a positive & negative 4x5 instant film. I'm damn happy about that.

Now about your series, Cadarbe Exuis. The opening of your exhibition for your book and series Cadarve Exuis was held at Iconoclastes Galerie in Paris was two days ago now. How did the reception go? How was the turn out? 
Cadavre Exquis, my first book and latest exposition went very well. The opening was loads of fun, a very good crowd. Everyone tells me that I had a great time! 

Did you select Iconoclastes Galerie for a specific reason, or have you had a relationship with them in the past? 
Like everything in Paris, nothing gets done without relationships. I heard about the gallery from a good friend that told me that another acquaintance of ours was managing the place. Of course the work had to be up to their standards and I am happy to say it was.

How did you hang you and exhibit your series? Did you display prints or the original photographs? How did you display them? In traditional mattes and frames or in a more modern and unique style? 
My idea for this exposition was to print one image from each of the 12 series, however, the show ended up with the original 8 Polaroid stories, framed story by story. I did 12 big prints at 60x62cm in a modern(ish) way, and had them printed and mounted on aluminium with anti UV and anti reflection protective film, framed in what is called here the "Caisse Américaine". I honestly don't know what that sort of frame is called in the States. Anyways, it was all pretty classic and what I consider elegant.

Do you plan on moving this exhibit to any other galleries to show your work?
The exposition is being shown in Montelimar, France as a slide show with music etc. during the month of April. Then the show will travel to Bretagne, France to be shown the month of June during the Art Rock Music Festival. I would love to be picked up by another reputable gallery though, here in Paris or elsewhere.

About the book itself. The idea for your book Cadarve Exquis started with just a poem that was created from the themes of the 12:12 Mens' Project. When did you decide to embark on this project, to combine all of your interpretations of these themes into one project? When and how did you become apart of the 12:12 project?
I've been involved with the 12:12 project since the beginning. I sponsored their expo here in Paris at EN FACE, and then started participating in the actual photography side since year two. Well, the second year, even though they had started the 12:12 Mens' Edition, I was asked to be part of the girls project. Long story. Anyway, last year I took part in the Mens' group, and it being my second year, was already very enthusiastic about it all, I decided to make something of a project with all my images. Not just image by image, like the first year. The themes were posted one by one on the private group page and as they came in I started noting them down. By the end of the list it read as a nice little poem, an "Exquist Corps", which is a writing game I used to do with friends way back in collage. I took all that a step further and decided to do stories for each theme, plus make it a book project.  

When interpreting these themes, did you have have a model predetermined for each story? Can you describe the process of selecting each model for each theme? Did the model's selected have any input or contribution on how each series turned out? 
I really count on my models for input. I love to work as a team. I want for everyone to get something out of what we do. The process is very spontaneous in fact. As I met the models, I proposed different themes to each of them, and depending on their inspiration and mine, we proceeded with the images. As I said before, I like to give the ladies the power! The result, to me, was prefect.

Do you have any specific reason that you shot each series with a different type of Impossible Film? How did you decide which type to use for each story? When did you adopt Impossible Project film as your medium of choice?
I've been involved with the Impossible project since its early beginnings. My old shop En Face was the first to sell there film and products here in Paris. For me it was only natural to work with their emulsions. I sometimes get the chance to try out new films before they hit the market and since they have been very productive, I decided use a different film for almost every story. Their "Duo-Chrome" films were just perfect for the interpretation of certain series, the dominance of  certain colors really helped relay the message is was aiming for. 

How did you come to work with Les Petites Editions for your first book? And how is it that after 30 years of shooting photography, you have just released your first book?
Clément who runs Les Petites Editions is a good friend and has been a supporter of my images since we meet almost 7 years ago. We've organized several Pola-events together. Who else could I count on for my first book? And yes, my First Book! I do have 30 some odd years of Polaroid history behind me, and as time has gone by, close to thousands of Polaroid images to my name. When it gets to be that much, it really is hard to make a selection for a book. I played with the idea a few times, but how to go about it ? What story to tell ? ... a best of? Who the hell is going to care ? No one knows me and only a select few know my work. Fashion ? art ? portrait ? abstract ? It only became clear to me through the 12:12 Project, that I had to create something new. It all fell into place then. New work that very very few had seen. To make an entrance with something fresh. 

Who designed your book? Did you have any influence did you have on the way it was presented in it's square format? Can you describe the creation and layout process?
I am very lucky to have a copy of Bruce Weber's 'O Rio De Janiero book. It has influenced me in so many ways. From the layout, to the story and the colors. It has just such a great vibe to it. I though a lot about this book when putting together Cadarve Exquis. I did 99% of the layout and directed Clément for the 1% that needed his help. I don't want to sound cocky, but this is MY BABY! And you know the saying, "If you want something done right...". Anyway, I wanted a certain rhythm in the layout, and as for the square format, it was just a natural way to go as far as formats. 

Do you have a favorite "chapter" of your book? Which one and why? Which one is the most meaningful to you and which was the funnest to shoot? What is the story behind each?
I do have a few favorites. For instance the very first story Loose this Skin. It started this project on the right foot and I only used one pack of film, every shot was a winner.  It motivated me and gave me the direction for the rest. I also really dig The Dark Night of My Soul story. It was shot with a duo-chrome film that was never released to the public and I lit the series only using 2 smart phones. Other stories like The Addictions I Get Lost In and Doppelgänger where fun to shoot because I used filters in front of the lens to double up the images and give them a bit of movement and blur. A very tricky soot, but I loved the challenge.

What projects, series, and exhibitions are you planning on working on after the dust settles on Cadarve Exquis? Have you started already?
I have ideas galore and so many stories that I want to illustrate. The one problem is a place to shoot them in. All of the stories in the book where shot at En Face, and alas En Face is no more. I have shot two new ideas in my buildings parking lot, it has interesting light and mood. Unfortunately, it is hard to do work there because,  nudes in public... well, you get the picture.

Can you tell us about any other photographers, instant or otherwise, that you admire, respect, or inspire you?
I always recommend young photographers to study up on photo history. For me, it really is the most important part of art school. Once you know what has already been done you can borrow, change around, and twist things to your own perspective. I have many photographers that I admire, respect, and that inspire me. They are all from different schools of photography. To name a few: Lee Friedlander, Carlo Molino, Guy Bourdin, Duane Micheals, Chuck Close, and of course Bruce Weber. Oh and the great and sad to say, late, Ren Hang, a young and inspiring artist that took his life just a few months ago.

Anything else you would like to share with us?
Apart from my images, I guess I'd just like to say that the older I get, the wiser my mistakes are.

Thank you for your time Raul, it has been a pleasure talking to you! 

The pleasure was all mine Michael!


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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!