Whilst the majority of fashion conscious teenagers hoped and prayed that their magazine intern application would get accepted, Kristin Prim founded and edited her own fashion and art publication, Prim, at just fourteen, establishing herself as the youngest magazine editor in the world. Alongside Prim, she successfully ran various online creative projects, collaborations with major fashion figures such as Jeremy Scott and Rad Hourani and a side career in modelling. Despite not having turned twenty yet, Prim has taken a step back from the fashion industry, diverting her artistic attention back to her original passion for photography and mixed media work. Prim’s brand and aesthetic has remained consistent throughout her many creative endeavours but arguably her recent body of fine art most authentically expresses her personal views and ideologies. Prim talks to Volt Café about the process and philosophy behind her work, her views as an insider on the fashion industry and offers her own manifesto on how to succeed in the creative industry.
Volt Café: Overt female sexuality juxtaposed with ambiguity and androgyny features heavily throughout your work. What is it about the female form that inspires you and why do you choose to omit personality and individuality by concealing your subjects faces?
Kristin Prim: I’ve always been heavily inspired by the female form itself as well as everything it represents, even on a completely generic basis. Throughout my work, especially in the entire ‘Milk‘ series, I look to uncover the phenomenon of the modern martyrdom of women. By concealing faces, I also express the anonymity of that martyrdom. I think that whole idea spreads far beyond women as well… we’re all anonymous martyrs in some way, but I suppose it’s manifested itself through my adoration and obsession with the female form itself. And as for androgyny, I suppose that’s another one of my grave obsessions as well. Most of the time I don’t consider myself fully woman, but instead some totality of both genders. It’s something I’ve struggled with personally since I was very young and yet another thing that took form throughout the work.
VC: Do you see anonymity as empowering the figures in your work?
KP: Yes, I suppose. I think I prefer the anonymity to be left more to the viewer than the subject. When looking at photographs, it’s very common to be unable to place yourself within a certain frame simply because the face isn’t yours. By shrouding all unique identity and leaving a blank body, that image now belongs to everyone, and hopefully, in specific, the viewer at hand.
VC: What is the significance of the title of your piece ‘Ubiquity‘? How does it go hand in hand with the image? Titles and words in general play a very important part in your work alongside visuals – almost introducing a new element of the work that would otherwise go undetected. Can you explain the role of words in your work and do they usually come before or after the visual?
KP: I suppose that title runs deep in the veins of my own philosophies when it comes to the gender binary and expression. The word ubiquity itself means the presence of an object or idea everywhere or in many places simultaneously. As I mentioned earlier, I have never considered myself male or female. I believe those very binaried boxes that we place ourselves into regarding gender are the very things that keep us wrongfully bound. To be more specific, I don’t believe in gender classifications at all, let alone do I believe that even the most “masculine” of men is fully male or “feminine” of women is truly female. This ambiguity exists in everyone at all times and that was what I looked to come across in the image. In regards to titling, those always come after. I never enter any work with a set concept. I set my camera up or gather any usable materials around me and just begin to subconsciously work. Only after I’m done do I realize that it reflects some ideology of mine, and I grab the title from there.
VC: Can you explain your thinking behind the piece ‘Things I’m Addicted To’?
KP: That whole piece came about after a terrible breakup. I’ve been addicted to a lot of things in my life, good and bad, and I began to stencil up letters on a huge sheet of paper and let my mind run free. I think the work is much more literal than people always think. As different as each of those words are, they’re entirely interconnected and force you to think about how much less relative lives are than they seem. To me, nicotine is bliss as well as self-destructive… self-destruction itself is beautiful as well as miserable. I am so completely infatuated with love, but that itself is imperfect and blissful as well. That was the general idea behind the piece, although I am incredibly happy that people have taken it and contorted it to fit their own means.
VC: The best art should do that! With reference to your piece ‘Meta‘ – hair is such a poignant symbol throughout literature and art and has eternally been synonymous with femininity. Is the removal and preservation of hair a statement that this signifier of femininity is arbitrary and has no meaning? An extension of your belief that gender classifications are redundant?
KP: Exactly right. And actually, the hair included in ‘Meta‘ is my own that I saved after shaving half of my head. I believe in the age old belief that the truest form of creativity is spurred from materializing what you know, which is why all of my work with the exception of ‘Ubiquity‘ so far has been self-portrait based.
VC: The fashion industry certainly perpetuates male/female gender boundaries, particularly in its dictation that we should dress “feminine and girly” one season and “androgynous” the next. You’ve stated that you “hate fashion” despite undoubtedly appreciating the art form that clothes can create. Can you expand on this statement?
KP: When I entered the fashion industry, I was thirteen years old. My first love has always been fine art, but for some reason I took a dip and detour around that time and started setting my focuses on fashion. The industry is so deeply corrupted, redundant, not glamorous, and terribly selfish, and I can say that as an insider looking in. When people are thirteen, I’m sure they didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do with the rest of their life. I got swept up in a whirlwind of press and work and was unable to simply leave. It took me a long time to get up and walk away; there’s a certain comfort in dealing with something you know so well. But the funny thing is, when I look back on my time I spent solely in that industry, I realize I was never in it for the clothing or trends, but the art of the work, which made this transition even easier.
VC: Prim magazine focuses on the art form of fashion as opposed to trend following so it must be frustrating when people place you in the teen blogger movement as the whole concept of it so clearly clashes with your ideals. What’s your view on people labeling you as a “teen blogger’” or “it girl”?
KP: It’s terribly frustrating. Believe it or not, I can stomach the idea of an “it girl” more so than a “teen blogger”. But my ideas clash with theirs so terribly that it almost takes on a comical appearance. But because I look very feminine most of the time and don’t go around preaching these ideas incessantly, it seems to people that I fit in just fine — maybe just a little more sexualized. But that’s okay… actually, that’s perfect. It’s great to change people’s perceptions on what certain people with specific ideas look like… in fact, that’s my entire mission.
VC: Was this desire to change people’s perceptions of you one of the driving forces behind creating your body of fine art?
KP: I wouldn’t say it was a driving force, but it definitely inspires me more. I suppose since I never considered myself a teen blogger by any means I felt as if I didn’t have that image to shed. People are shocked to find out that I think the things I do and lead the lifestyle I lead everyday upon meeting me because of my appearance. It was once frustrating, but I’m trying to channel those feelings into being more gratifying. It’s not an easy thing to do… deconstructing societal perceptions never are.
VC: Did you feel comfortable exploring the personal ideas that you present in your fine art through Prim magazine? Or did you feel shackled in a sense by the fact that it was a Fashion Print Magazine and people would expect a certain thing from that?
KP: As much as I don’t think this is something to necessarily pride, I tend to be a very blunt and belligerent, combative person when necessary. While I had Prim, I definitely explored the principles of misconception and androgyny. I couldn’t care less whether we sold one copy or one million — the ideas being circulated were much more important than our sales. And, not to be rash, but as far as I’m concerned, most people in the entire industry could go fuck themselves and I couldn’t care less… I never bothered to read their reviews of myself or my work. That most definitely doesn’t derive from a state of pompousness, but instead one of intelligence and not caring what’s “in season”. That isn’t to say that I don’t love and adore some people I have met through my work in fashion, but sadly they are few and far between.
VC: Andy Warhol famously stated – “being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art, making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art” – evidently you have a sharp business mind and have worked hard and made money through it. Would you say this is your ‘best’ form of art?
KP: Actually – on that note, last year I was asked by a wildly popular fashion website to write some sort of manifesto in honor of Prim’s five year anniversary. It was essentially a “do and do not” set of rules of how to make it in fashion. And so I did it, quite bluntly. I deconstructed ideas of superiority, fraudulence, shallowness, and betrayal. It was about two pages long and the piece was immediately cancelled once I sent it in. I did not say anything that was untruthful nor did I mention names or was the least bit disrespectful. That’s when I gave up — but I will eventually publish it. For once people need to hear the complete truth without some source being afraid of losing revenue in some way. This is why everything you read is censored, of course.
VC: What alternative advice would you give to other young people hoping to make it in the creative industry?
KP: Stay in school! Intern! Be respectful of your seniors! Haha, I’m just kidding… Don’t.
The greatest advice I can offer is some that I’ve already given, so I’ll take an excerpt from that piece and apply it to this… “I have been successful since the age of thirteen. I have never kissed ass. I have never name dropped. I have never done anything that I didn’t want to do. I have never listened. I have fired people. I have been fired. I have walked off of shoots. I have never had to pretend to be someone I was not. I have burnt bridges. I have rebuilt those bridges to watch them go up in flames again. I have shot down the ideas of people five times my senior and thrice my experience… in front of their faces. I have failed. Through failing I have succeeded. I have never used anyone. I have never faked my age. I had no prior connections. I have run everything I have ever touched independently. I have never screwed anyone over. I have stayed loyal. Guess how much I care about politics. I don’t give a fuck. And neither should you if you want anything more in life than unhappiness, contempt, and your lighting fast fifteen seconds of fame.”
Words by Angelica Mandy
TagsAngelica Mandy, Kristin Prim, Prim magazine,