November 9, 2018

Analog Forever: PRYME Founder Michael Behlen on His New Magazine

Article submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by DJ Pangburn. 

Known by many in the analog instant community, the quarterly print publication PRYME was a place where instant film artists could showcase their work. Earlier this year, however, the publication’s founder, Michael Behlen, stepped away from PRYME, leaving it under the stewardship of writer Anne Silver. But after only a few months away from indie publishing and the instant film community, Behlen is back with Analog Forever magazine, an online and print publication focused on contemporary analog photography. He plans to publish the first issue in the winter of 2019 and spoke to us about his entry into the world of photography, letting go of PRYME, and realizing he couldn’t truly step away from analog film editorial.

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When Behlen began taking photographs, he did so digitally. After moving by degrees from band to wedding and portrait photography, Behlen turned away from the medium as a profession, and sold off most of his digital gear as a result. He wanted to return to photography as as more purely individual artistic expression. And he wanted to go analog.

“I wanted to get away from the computer, which I already spent eight hours a day on at work, and I picked up an SX70 from eBay after seeing Mikael Kennedy’s work,” Behlen tells Polaroid Originals. “He was a big Polaroid guy who did a series called Passport to Trespass. At the same time, Impossible Project came out with their beta film and I grabbed some. Since then I’ve been shooting analog.”

For the first year, Behlen submitted his instant photographs to magazines, but editors weren’t biting. Frustrated, he took his friend’s advice and started his own publication, PRYME. Released in 2014, the first issue, at 100 pages, was an experiment in publishing. It was far from a flawless product, but Behlen enjoyed the editorial, and instant film enthusiasts liked the new outlet for their work.

But in 2015, after five issues, Behlen stepped away after some burnout trying to balance the magazine, his daily job and family life. No sooner had he stepped away than instant film enthusiasts came out of the woodwork, asking him where PRYME had gone. A year later, Behlen relaunched the publication with a series of special editions called PRYME Editions. One again, Behlen had burnt himself out, even though he had the help of a rotating cast of contributors that included Bill Moore, Cheyenne Morrison and Keaton Johanson.

 

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“It sucks to have to say that I burnt myself out again,” says Behlen. “Over the four and a half years I ran PRYME, I think I featured over 125 artists, I sold just over 1,000 print books and zines, which was really cool. But to do it by yourself, trying to promote it, run the business side, ship… it was just intense, man.”

Behlen decided to call it quits, but this time he didn’t freeze the magazine’s various operations. Toward the tail end of his time with PRYME, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for an annual instant film journal, which he called PRYME Editions. Behlen says this issue was the best thing he’s ever published. Feeling that the work was done, he decided to hand the publication over to Silver, who had helped write several articles for the annual issue.

After leaving PRYME, Behlen wasn’t planning on doing anything at all. Outside of family and work life, Behlen says he really got into backpacking and camping in the wilderness to clear his head and relax.

“But I think with most people who need to be constantly busy, when you get some relaxation it’s not relaxing—it doesn’t make any damn sense but that’s just how it is,” says Behlen. “On my 30th birthday I was talking to a buddy at a bar and he said, ‘Hey man, why did you quit doing that? You really loved it. You just seem bored.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, man, you’re right.’”

Instead of immediately launching a new publication, as he had done with PRYME, Behlen took time to formulate a more concrete editorial plan. During his time at PRYME, he’d met Michael Kirchoff, a Los Angeles-based professional photographer, so he reached out to him. The two decided to team up with two writers, Tim Scott and Niniane Kelly; together, three of them would each write one article per month—with each individual having a week off every three months—so that none of them would experience the same type of burnout Behlen went through.

 

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The new magazine, Analog Forever, will feature photographs captured via various analog processes. The images will be anything from large format to wet plate, analog instant, 35mm, Holgas—any camera that captures photos without a digital sensor.

“We will be analog across the board,” says Behlen. “We want to feature all types of analog photography processes.”

The first issue will be conceptually open. Right now, Behlen says the editorial is fresh and new, and the team doesn’t want to put itself in a thematic box. It would have to happen with the Spring 2020 issue and subsequent installments. As Behlen tells us, Analog Forever’s print edition will ship with a gloss laminate cover, and will look and feel a bit like the PRYME Editions annual issue—thick paper that feels heavy in the hands.

“We’ll do three or four interviews, and they’ll range from 12 to 16 pages each with full image spreads,” says Behlen. “We’ll also be featuring six or seven other artists with bio and artist statements and full image spreads.”

Analog Forever’s other editorial elements are still being hashed out. For now, Behlen and the team are trying to build up a community around the publication—something he’d failed to do when founding PRYME, which caused him to scramble to find retail outlets for the magazine.

“The whole idea is to generate an audience before we even create our first issue, which is not going to go out until winter of 2019, and our call for entries will be in Spring of 2019,” says Behlen. “What we’re doing right now is we’re letting everyone know we are here to stay, and we want to help curators, galleries, individuals, and retailers. We want to create a community.”

 

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We are excited to announce that the 3rd online group exhibition, “Constructs: Building Images with Instant Film”, will be sponsored by Polaroid Originals! Analog Forever is giving away a Onestep+ Camera and Film to the winner of this online exhibition. To enter, all you need to do is submit your instant film images to this month’s online group exhibition curated by Analog Forever Editor in Chief Michael Kirchoff. The deadline for submissions is November 30th. Visit www.analogforevermagazine.com for all the details.

Discover more about Analog Forever on IG: @analogforeverzine

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