Austrian-born, New York-based Bela Borsodi, 41, used to be mainly a portraitist, but about six years ago he made a decisive switch to still life. Not conventional still life, mind you, but an unusual blend of products and assorted graphical display devices, which can create a curious narrative that's more often found in, well, portraiture. The transition began when he was asked to shoot an annual report for Swiss supermarket chain Migros "a huge still offer that involved two months in Zurich," he recalls. He shot raw food, food on dirty plates, assorted containers, collaged household objects and the like in a variety of evocative poses, you might say; "I discovered I had a talent for this, and at that time there wasn't that much interesting still life around." Moreover, "I was somehow overwhelmed with shooting people," and he simply felt it was time for a change. "Objects have their own psychology, which can be like that of people—they talk back, they have a life of their own, you battle with them if you respect them—but at the same time they're not people, it's a different kind of challenge. My work tries to animate objects, give them life and soul."
Sometimes a distinctly naughty soul—his pinup- and manga-styled nudes as the basis of accessories showcases, for Stern and Details, respectively, are the stuff of consumer sex fantasies. His style finds a comfortable home in editorial work, particularly in European magazines like Glamour Italia, but ad work is another matter entirely. Advertisers "have to totally commit to my style, and these clients are hard to find," he says. "I don't get random ad jobs, like, 'Shoot some perfume.' But I won't corrupt my style for ad work." His 2006 campaign for Selfridges and Mother/London is a rare example of an advertiser embracing his style, featuring humanoid handbags wearing sunglasses, and shoes playing cards.
As Getty Images group CD Lewis Blackwell said of Borsodi, who was among Getty's "New Photographers 2007" showcase, "Humor is often the key to great advertising, and Borsodi's work stands out for having a wicked sense of risqué humor while adeptly tackling perhaps the most challenging form of ad work, the product shot. Borsodi transforms products into witty commentaries on the life of pleasure they're supposed to engender." So where does Borsodi get his inspiration, comic or otherwise? "I'm inspired by everything except other photography," he insists. "I don't look at magazines per se. And I find fashion photography rather irritating."