At Lomography Magazine, we love to highlight people who are equally as passionate about film photography as we are. We spoke to Michael Behlen about his magazine, Analog Forever, which celebrates the unique and physical qualities of film photography. The magazine will launch on November 8th at SF Camerawork, so be sure to preorder here before then. Check out more about their first print issue, as well as a giveaway, below!
Welcome to the Lomography Magazine, Michael. Please introduce yourself real quick to our community.
Hi Birgit! My name is Michael Behlen and I am a publisher, photographer, and all-around analog photography obsessed guy. I previously ran PRYME Magazine, a publication dedicated to instant film, from 2014-2017 and launched Analog Forever Magazine in June of 2018. I work in finance during the day and spend my free time shooting film and backpacking through the California wilderness. I have self-published two Polaroid photobooks — “Searching for Stillness, Vol. 1” and “I Was a Pioneer,” literally a boxed set of my instant film work. My latest book, Searching for Stillness Vol II, is now out via Static Age. I have been published, interviewed, and reviewed in a number of magazines and online publications, from F-Stop and Blur Magazine to the Analog Talk Podcast. Essentially, when I am not working I am either shooting film or promoting other film based artists. It is my passion!
How did the Analog Forever Magazine come to life in the first place?
Analog Forever Magazine began in June of 2018 at the same place my previous venture, PRYME Magazine began: Sequoia Brewing Company in Fresno, California. It had been close to a year since I left PRYME Editions behind me to attempt to pursue photography from an artist's viewpoint, instead of a publishers. I had spent the majority of that year exploring the mountains of California with a backpack and Polaroid camera, trying to recapture why I fell in love with photography in the first place. However, even though my time away had allowed me to relax and enjoy myself, I just didn't feel fulfilled due to the lack of energy flowing through my life. I think a lot of people can relate to me in that way, the 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.
It was through one of my frequent conversations with my great friend Khan Shadid [at Sequoia Brewing], that I was reminiscing about the time I spent publishing photographers' work via PRYME that he said to me, ‘Hey man, why did you quit doing that [my previous publishing project]? You really loved it. You just seem bored.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, man, you’re right." It was in that moment that I told my friend to pause our conversation so I could text Michael Kirchoff, the previous editor of Blur Magazine and now our Editor in Chief: "Do you want to start a magazine with me dedicated to analog film"? His quick and enthusiastic yes sealed the deal.
After that moment, Michael K. and I knew we needed to form a dream team of analog-obsessed individuals to make this crazy idea a reality. After tons of discussions, we were lucky enough to recruit Niniane Kelley and Tim Scott to join the Analog Forever Magazine ranks. Their enthusiasm when we approached them was unparalleled and they were crazy enough to join us on this mission. Since that point, all four of us have been working closely together to create the online foundation for our print issue through editorials, interviews, and online exhibitions. Through this process, we have all learned a lot about each other and about artists we would have otherwise never seen or heard about due to how different our individual tastes are. I would say that this is one of the best parts of working on a team like ours: our different backgrounds, skillsets, and mediums of choice allow us to keep our content fresh and exciting by exposing our audience to different photographic perspectives.
What is it that fascinates you about film photography?
I have always felt that the analog medium is the perfect outlet for artists of all persuasions. It is such a diverse tool that anyone can make art that fits their personal style and aesthetic. This, combined with the fact that film is permanent, is what really makes our medium of choice unique. Unlike our digital counterparts, film allows us to hold our memories in our hands through negatives, show them to our loved ones through prints, and experiment like mad scientists in the darkroom. The culmination of these things is what makes analog photography so special.
Do you genuinely believe analog things are forever? If so why?
Well, I sure hope so! My theory is that three things are cyclical: technology, convenience, and human interaction. Society moves in waves from becoming excited about future technology, adopting it for its convenience, and then slowly asking ourselves “is this what I really want”? The human species is a social one and without the smile of a stranger handing over your developed negatives, it just doesn’t feel the same. Adobe Lightroom sure as hell doesn’t smile at you while it grinds your computer down to dust processing digital RAW images. These interactions feel honest and sincere and it’s something that only this type of technology is able to balance correctly. We get the joys of interacting with our community with the bonus of producing tangible work that you can hold in your hands.
With that in mind, analog will never die. Though we went through a lot of scares in the ’90s and early 2000s — Polaroid Corporation declaring bankruptcy and selling off its brand and assets and Ilford going into receivership — these companies ultimately transformed and survived in one way or another. I would argue that these companies are in a better place than they were due to the wonderful people that are now at the head of each of these businesses. These individuals care about our medium and that passion is what will keep analog film in the market for the foreseeable future.
You are now publishing the first issue of the print version of the Analog Forever Magazine. Was this something you've always had in mind for it or what made you take this step now?
When we began this journey in creating Analog Forever Magazine, we only had two things we wanted to accomplish: promote analog film photographers and share our passion with the world. We knew that we would publish our first issue in the Winter of 2019; but beyond that, we hadn't made any editorial or design decisions until we received submissions and finalized the artists that would be included in the last few months. I can share that our Art Director Tim Scott from THEM has taken all of our team's ideas, inspirations, and personalities and has created something that both represents us as individuals but also showcases the artists selected in an intelligent and aesthetically pleasing way. I couldn't be more excited with our direction from a design perspective and can't wait to share our first issue with the world!
Tell us a little bit about this first issue.
Our first issue will be released on November 9th, 2019! It is being printed by Edition One Books here in California and will feature 10 analog and experimental photographers from around the globe — from Europe and Great Britain to the USA and Germany — each exploring various methods for using the medium we love in individual, creative ways. Inside, there are four in-depth interviews:
— Fred Lyon: For over seven decades, with a ravenous eye and boundless energy, Fred Lyon has been firmly anchored behind a camera. From the streets of his native San Francisco, to the offices of Life and Vogue, Fred takes us on a nostalgic tour of old San Francisco and the world from the 1940s and 1950s as we examine his 75+ year career as a professional photographer and photojournalist.
— Yelena Zhavoronkova: She discusses her still life Platinum/Palladium prints and techniques, and as a result shows us how even the simplest objects come alive with proper lighting and printing techniques.
— Estevan Oriol: Photographer and director Estevan Oriol converses with us about his 20+ career as an urban lifestyle and documentary photographer that has allowed him to create a portfolio that juxtaposes the glamorous and gritty streets of Los Angeles culture, including portraits of famous artists and celebrities, as well as Latino, urban, gang, and tattoo culture lifestyles.
— Lynn Bierbaum: Her work explores her search for belonging, and for a place she can call home, by creating three-dimensional photography sculptures from a hybrid process of wet plate collodion and blown glass.
In addition to our in-depth interviews, we are also highlighting six other artists that deserve praise for their unique and ambitious work! Featured artists include: Nils Karlson, Blue Mitchell, John F. Cooper, K.K. DePaul, Mads Madison, and Anna Foersterling!
Where do you see film photography in 10 years?
Truthfully, I see it exactly where it is today: consistent and self-sustaining. The only thing I see changing drastically is how we interact as a community. Though we shoot cameras made decades ago, photographers are increasingly using digital technology to connect with one another. This factor has allowed us to become closer to one another, share ideas and inspiration, and simply support each other in our endeavors. It's amazing that I have become true friends with artists across the globe who I have never met in person simply due to the fact that we both have a passion for making photographs with old cameras. I foresee this becoming increasingly important as the world becomes more and more polarized due to global and political events. The simple fact that two individuals share the love of photography brings us closer together and allows us to see viewpoints from another person's eyes. Our medium is one of the last places where we can literally step into someone else's shoes, and for that reason: it is one of the most important art forms in the modern era.
Who should get a copy of Analog Forever Magazine?
Every single person that believes that photographs should be held in our hands instead of viewed on a computer screen. Though digital technology and social media are great for sharing our work, there is something fulfilling in thumbing through the pages of a photo book, journal, or magazine. You can stare deeply into the printed pages and spend quality time with each photographers' work in a way that is inexpressible to someone who has never done so. I would also like to share that our magazine isn't a commercial venture, it is a passion project of individuals who want to promote and engage the analog community. Our goal is to literally spread our love for analog photography around the world in printed form. Every issue that we sell furthers our reach and allows us to continue supporting the artists within our community via our printed publication.
Any last words to the Lomography Community?
I just want to point out that we are simply lovers of analog photography. That’s it. The only difference that sets us apart from any other person trying to run a website, blog, or publication is one simple thing: we just did it. There you have it, that’s our big secret. We didn't wait until we were 100% ready because we were 100% passionate about our mission in promoting photographers' work we believe in. We just went for it. I want to personally encourage every single person to pursue their passion and finally tackle all those ideas that keep you up at night. We believe in your photography projects, your self-published zines, and your community darkrooms, so just GO FOR IT!
Lastly, we are having a launch party at SF Camerawork on November 8th, 2019 from 6:00-8:30pm and would love to see you there! You can meet our team, a few of the artists from Issue 1, and network and get to know analog photographers of all types and backgrounds. This will be followed by a group photowalk on November 9th, 2019 from Noon-3pm starting at Glass Key Photo in San Francisco. We hope to see you there!
Want to win your own copy of the magazine? Enter our giveaway here.
Pre-order the first print issue of Analog Forever here (US Only).
For international pre-orders, purchase here.
For Australia pre-orders, purchase here.