Ukrainian-born photographer Anya Anti is known for her surreal, conceptual photography which is exemplified in her newest project, aptly titled Butterflies in My Stomach. Superbly photographed and composited together, Anti gives a visual voice to a feeling many of us have experienced.

In our recent interview with the photographer, she shared: “Photography is not only what I love, it’s also a gentle and romantic side of me. It’s a reflection of my deep emotions, passion for unknown and craving for beauty. What I’m trying to show is a beautiful image and photography techniques, but also convey an idea, mood, atmosphere, and associations.” In this particular case, Anti works to achieve feelings of anxiety and depression that have personally affected her.

Art can often be a release for people struggling with dark emotions, helping them make sense of what they are experiencing. In Anti’s case, the self-portrait reflects what she’s experienced internally. “This image is a metaphor of dealing with stress, anxiety and releasing my inner bugs,” Anti tells us via email. “I’ve had issues with dark thoughts and depression for the past couple of years and this image represents my attempt to reconsider my life and to be reborn into a new person.”

And apart from the emotional considerations, the work is yet another stunning achievement that demonstrates the self-taught photographer’s technical ability. She spent 3.5 hours photo editing in order to merge two images seamlessly together for the final look. But lest you think she was happy to rely completely on digital post-production, she shared that the biggest challenge was actually in the initial setup. Aiming to arrange things so that the images would be as realistic as possible, and thus requiring less manipulation in Photoshop. Scroll down to see some behind-the-scenes shots

These behind the scenes images and incredible time-lapse of Anya Anti’s editing session demonstrate how she pulled together the conceptual photograph.

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