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Fantasies in Photoshop: The Art of Flora Borsi

By Kim O’Neill

A beautiful woman draped in a polar bear stole cries a single red tear. Another woman, dressed in the style of Wednesday Addams, stands with her head trapped in a sky-blue wall. An angel with extravagantly textured wings, vulnerable in a thin slip, perches in the window of a fantastical building. 

An image of a woman wearing a polar bear stole, by photographer Flora Borsi
Image of a headless woman, a photo manipulation by photgrapher Flora Borsi
An image of a fallen angel by photo artist Flora Borsi

The Hungarian fine art photographer Flora Borsi’s work explodes with feathers, fur, mysterious clouds of smoke, and rich color. Fanciful themes, gorgeous people, and incredible situations characterize her photography and Photoshop art. “My favorite thing about photo manipulation is that I can create things that don’t exist…that physically are impossible,” says the 21-year-old self-taught photographer. 

Impressively prolific for such a young artist, Borsi has a portfolio that includes everything from self-portraits (in several styles) to group projects (such as work she contributed to the Bully Project Mural). For example, her series Asphyxia depicts the artist with what appears to be a glass bubble full of water over her head. And in another charming series, Borsi has placed herself (in period dress) into iconic photographs from history, where she surreptitiously snaps photos—a paparazzo from the future, recording the past. Borsi has a love of the surreal. “I don’t like reality; I want to fake it! Photography is the perfect medium for me to express my feelings and create my visions.”

A self-portrait by photographer Flora Borsi, from her series Asphyxia
An image by artist Flora Borsi
A self-portrait photo manipulation by artist Flora Borsi

INSPIRING IMAGES

Borsi has wanted to be an artist since she was around five years old. “I’ve done artistic things since I was a little girl: drawing, painting, and so on.” With encouragement from her parents, she started on the path to her artist’s life. Painters such as Salvador Dalí initially inspired her, but as her interests turned to photography, she also came to admire artists such as the British fashion photographer Tim Walker, American portraitist Annie Leibovitz, and Hungarian photographer Marton Perlaki. “My parents were letting me to do these things, and I’m really thankful for this, because these years were the beginning of my career. I’ve done photography for seven years, and I want to do original work, from my own resources, and that’s why I needed to learn photography. I just needed to find my tools to make the art how I wanted. And the perfect tool was Photoshop.”

Borsi’s first works of photography were collages, and then she moved on to creating fan art of musicians she loved. What started as an after-school hobby gained more and more significance in her life. “Usually when I went home, I had nothing to do, and I was just playing with Photoshop. But after years this activity became the most important thing.”

IT’S A SHE THING

With her penchant for self-portraits, her evident love of fashion, and her abundant use of beautiful textures and colors, Borsi’s work employs a lot of typically feminine elements. Women are shown in a complex mosaic: strong and fearless, vulnerable, turned into monsters, trapped in a garment on a hanger, plastered with feathers, or obscured by flowers. It’s tempting to wonder if Borsi is telegraphing a message about women or femininity in her work. “My work often features the female body, and I play with hiding and revealing the eyes or face to leave only the feminine form, exploring questions of female representation and the relationship between body and self,” she says. 

Image of a woman's face covered in feathers, by artist Flora Borsi
Image by artist Flora Borsi
Photo composite by artist Flora Borsi

“Beauty is relative and transient,” she adds. “I don't spend much time with retouching little details, freckles, or wrinkles, because this is what defines us and makes us special and remarkable. Erasing these signs of individuality results in a complete loss of uniqueness, and we all become Barbies and Kens. In their own way, everyone is beautiful—it depends on the point of view.” 

She wants to imbue her art with more depth, so she has made the decision to further her education. “I’m a self-taught artist; I never took classes on photography or Photoshop before university. I needed to extend my erudition, to be more professional, and to be inspired, in order to make my works more exciting and to have different kinds of meaning, so now I’m studying at the Photography department of the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest.”

MODEL CITIZENS

In her series The Real Life Models, Borsi imagines what the models of seminal works of art may have looked like, and depicts them next to the original works. The model for a Picasso portrait has the distorted head and enormous eyes of the painting depicting her. The model for a Modigliani work has the exaggerated long neck that was a hallmark of Modigliani’s women but still looks like a lovely, actual woman one might see on the street. Without a doubt, technology is a driver of these ideas and the flame that lights Borsi’s imagination. “I can fake the reality, create art without limit. Even if something would be impossible in nature and real life, it’s a perfect tool to make an image look like it was real, without question. I don’t need to make a stage for the photographs, like the famous photographers in history.”

An image from Flora Borsi's series The Real Life Models, inspired by Picasso
An image by artist Flora Borsi, inspired by Modigliani

A TECHNICAL WIN

With her mastery of Photoshop techniques, her drive to learn more, and her enthusiasm for her work and for life in general, Borsi seems poised to continue to take the art world by storm. Users of Adobe Photoshop CC may already be familiar with Borsi’s work: one of her photographs was used as a Photoshop splash screen—serving as a message and an inspiration to Photoshop users everywhere: Look what can be done! A genuine digital native, Borsi began her career with a digital camera and has never looked back. “I have always used digital photography. The result can be seen right after the shot…nowadays everything happens really fast, and I want to keep up that speed.” 

Artist Flora Borsi created this Adobe Photoshop splash screen

If you’d like to keep up to speed with Flora Borsi’s work, check out her website, which is a treasure trove of photographs, more information about Borsi herself, and links to websites where her work can be purchased.

(Ready to start exploring new Photoshop techniques? Check out this collection of Photoshop tutorials, from novice to expert.)