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- ESTELLA WARREN
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- THE MAN WHO (ALMOST) FOOLED EVERYONE
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- TREATS! PARTY PICS
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- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS IOAN GRUFFUDD
- STEVEN LYON SHOOTS “FILLES DE NUIT” FOR TREATS ISSUE #2
- BROOKE BONELLI GETS A TREAT! OF A TAN!
- “THE CASTING”: BEHIND THE SCENES, PART 3
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS BROOKE AND MAY – BEHIND THE SCENES
- DEWY SKIN BY JO BAKER
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- RED LIPS BY JO BAKER
- SHIMMERY SEXY EYES
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- TREATS! PHOTOGRAPHERS
- TONY DURAN SHOOTS THE CASTING: BEHIND THE SCENES PT. 2
- BEN WATTS SHOOTS BREAKING AWAY FOR TREATS! ISSUE 2 – PT. 1
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- ELECTRIC BY HERRING & HERRING
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- ARMANI’S CREMA THE CROP
- MR MAXWELL WILL SEE YOU NOW
- PEACHY KEEN: SLIDE INTO SPRING WITH CHANEL’S HARMONIE DE PRINTEMPS LINE
- BELA BORSODI: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PHOTOGRAPHER
- TREATS! Q & A: DAVID BELLEMERE
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- HELMUT 3.0
- A BALANCING ACT LIKE NO OTHER
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- WHO IS DOUG BARTLETT?
- ALLAN TEGER: PEAKS & VALLEYS
- MAKE IT NEW: THE STORY OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE
- GUSTAV KLIMT: THE SHAPE OF A WOMAN
- THE MOST INTERESTING TOWN IN THE WORLD
- JIMMY STEINFELDT: IN THROUGH THE LENS
- FOREVER YOUNG
- TREATS Q & A: JOHN URBANO
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PHOTOGRAPHER: AN INTERVIEW WITH BELA BORSODI
by Kate Dell’Aquila
Bela Borsodi is serious about the art of photography. Learned in philosophy, psychology, graphic design and fine arts, Borsodi’s work tends to explore elements from each of these schools. Having worked in the realm of still life for almost 12 years, Borsodi has carved a niche for himself producing vibrant, challenging and hyper-sexualized images. Feminists hate him, magazines love him and many others fence sit when trying decide how they feel about his imagery. But not matter what you think when you view his work; there is no denying his profound passion for his craft. treats! caught up with the frantic photographer to talk foot fetishes, dreams and the art of the image one rainy New York Afternoon.
How did you get your start in photography?
I studied graphic design and fine art in Vienna. I started with photography by chance when friends asked me to shoot portraits for their magazines.
What made you move from Europe to New York in the ’90s?
Love made me move to New York in 1992.
You studied fine art and graphic design but always felt a pull towards photography. Why?
Photography did not win over my other great passions but instead gave me the possibility to connect many of my passions. I grew up drawing and went to the same art school where my parents met. I studied graphic design but didn’t like it that much, it was too old school and I had this vision that it would be more exciting and fun. So I switched to fine arts and always used photography as a supplement to my projects. In the end photography just grew. The process that leads to a photographic image allows me to explore my other projects. I make sculptures and build my sets. I think conceptually and artistically I freely reference anything from anywhere and I constantly develop my curiosity and stubbornly follow my interests whatever they might be. Photography is actually much more complex than just taking a photo. A photographic image is the result of a photographic thought and of a photographic process. This process can often include many other different disciplines, which then also become photographic. For example, to build a sculpture only for the purpose of placing it in a photograph is also part of the photographic process and in this way also becomes photography. As an artist you have to fully control the artistic direction of every necessary aspect to make your project artwork, this is the same with photography. I think of the entire process as photography.
You have a great interest in psychology. How does this get incorporated into your photography?
I want to investigate perception. I like to challenge what is around me in order to explore alternative and often hidden qualities in things. In doing so, I hope to detect different possibilities of how we can understand the world around us. In order to do this I have to question the obvious and rethink what I have learned. I need to do this freely and with an open but sharp mind. I am more interested in questions than answers so any result I come up with through my work shows only one possible solution from many others. If I work on a project I also need to figure out how people might read it and whether they will understand what I am trying to address. I really try to touch peoples’ minds and hearts. A great thought which is not delivered in a way that is understandable, is not very helpful if you want to communicate with your audience.
Your images are often surreal and abstract….
I get my best ideas by imagining things that don’t exist yet. My inspiration comes from my free uninhibited mind, which is the complex result of all that I have seen and experienced so far in my life. Inspiration in my opinion doesn’t mean to reinstall something that already exists. Inspiration is about wanting to add something new, which is often something that even I don’t fully understand. It is about engaging with an irresistible experiment, to be willing to go on an adventure with an idea, to find something that doesn’t exist yet. Inspiration might be triggered by a single concrete experience but that alone is not interesting enough for me to start with a project. Only if it is developed into a more complex experiment, if it is reaching out into unfamiliar new dimensions does it seem worthwhile to me. Inspiration for me can only be the process of an active thought, which I want to experience in reality. I find my “triggers” everywhere: artwork, movies, stories, music, conversations, personal experiences, and often within the banal or most unexpected things. My urge to question and challenge these “triggers,” to combine them or to juxtaposition them with others, to put them into a different context and see what will happen, is inspiring to me.
What drew you to still life photography?
In 1999 I was invited by a great art director to work on a project to shoot still life. At that time I was mainly working on portraiture and I did many experiments using unusual light sources and camera techniques. I was quite surprised at being asked to shoot still life because although I always thought I would be good at still life given the chance, it was only in doing this project that I fell in love with it. I realized how relatively unexplored still life photography was at that time and I just thought of all the new things I could experiment with. As much as I love shooting still life I also never feel limited to it. As it happens in a career, one usually gets involved with projects that are a result of previous work. But I am not limited to still life and I often include people in my images. I am in the process of going much further with finding other ideas for my photography rather than just dealing with objects, it never was or will be my intention to focus only on one thing. In my work the thought behind my still life photographs is surely more interesting than just the representation of an object and these thoughts are not only applicable to objects.
How did you learn to light objects as opposed to the portraits and fashion editorials you shot at the beginning of your career?
Most important to me is what happens in front of the camera, whether I am shooting a person or an object or anything else. What and why and how this is happening is the only thing of real interest. The photographic technique and how to light the situation is something I learn by paying attention to what the situation demands of me, practically and conceptually. A very long time ago I shot architectural hardware for a designer friend to make some money. I studied how a fully reflective ball covered in chrome wants to be lit and photographed, what are its limitations and advantages of being something that is really hard to shoot. I learned because I tried many possibilities. There are no rules, just consequences and having to make decisions. For many of my images I use a rather flat simple light coming from one single source. I do this because I want to focus on the things that are happening in front of the camera, I want the situation to be the hero of the image and not the light. The light should only accommodate and explain the situation it should not overpower it. If I want the light to be more “dramatic,” it has to be an important part of the narrative of a project, for example, “Skinflicker” was mainly driven by the light I used, the light became the hero of those images because it had a physical relationship with the model. I believe every aspect and element of a photograph should have a purpose within the image. Every part of an image has a function. The objects themselves and what they do, how they are lit and in what format and composition they are photographed become the nature of what the image means conceptually. All these things together make the image. This idea is no different when shooting people, fashion or landscapes, the nature and purpose of the image demand how it should photographed. In my images the bags and shoes are almost secondary to the thought that is behind the image.
Do you conceptualize your own ideas? What is involved in bringing a Bela Borsodi image to life?
I conceptualize my own ideas, often they are in response to a magazine that needs to show certain objects or wants to address a topic. Sometimes I am presented ideas that I discuss and develop together with art directors. Only very rarely do I just follow layouts and concepts from clients in advertising because my commercial clients usually ask for my active conceptual involvement.
You make no secret about the messages or statements you make through your images. You were even once attacked by feminist groups for a series called “Foot Fetish” for V Magazine.
For that editorial I placed cutouts from photographs into high heels and the cutouts depicted partial shapes of nude girls. High heels physically alter the shape of the female body and they sexualize the woman wearing such shoes, that is the principal idea and purpose of high heels, they are not designed for comfort but for what they do to the female body, physically and psychologically. I wanted to explore the resulting shapes and proportions by exaggerating and dramatizing this principle of merging the female body with a shoe. I first got a lot of angry response for these images from feminist groups who accused me of “toying” with the nude female form. They were particularly angry that I did not show any faces and it was suggested that I had decapitated women. But on many blogs and fashion websites these images triggered a wide and interesting discussion about art, fashion and sexism. It was very interesting to see that these images could illustrate contrary points of view. It was understandable that some saw the images as sexist artwork while others saw the images to be a feminist critique. The fact that I am a man and that the images appeared in a fashion magazine should not determine their meaning. The images caused a strong reaction and started a wide conversation, and that, I find, is the purpose of art. The role of an artist is to reflect on the world and to raise awareness and address issues.
Do you worry about the polarizing affects of your images?
No. Exactly the opposite. So many of the things I am interested in allow for many contradicting and polarizing points of view. As an artist I want to explore these and make them visible, I want to introduce them for a possible conversation. I want to make people think about things that are a mystery to me and to communicate and raise questions and share my thoughts. For an artist it is the biggest achievement if the artwork can start a dialogue and that is more likely to happen if I touch on a topic that has a polarizing affect. I get critiques that my images are exploitative but I am not like that at all. I feel that most images we see in the media grab our attention with sexual content. This is certainly what we are seeing in advertising and magazines. Sexuality permeates the media. For me it is interesting to explore this idea. It’s not that I see a woman as an object, rather that the world sees the woman as the object. But at the end of the day, I am a man so naturally I like to see beautiful girls, though that is not my only reason for creating these images.
What in your life has provided you with the most inspiration?
Of course, life itself is the biggest inspiration.
What has been your most challenging photo shoot?
I don’t know. All my projects are challenging in different ways when I’m in the process, it is hard to say in retrospect. But I hardly ever work on anything that comes easy, and if it is, then I would be sure to find a way to make it complicated.
What is your dream job?
I am very happy with what I am doing now and also what I will come up with from here on. I have a lot of plans and things I want to do.
What is your favorite treat?
A moment of rest.