MARKESAN ARTIST ELIZABETH Kazda captured this image of her cat, Riff, using spectral light photography.
by Ariana Hones
Elizabeth Kazda of Markesan will learn Sunday, July 8 which prize she received from the Royal Horticultural Society Photographic Competition.
And to think, it all began with a prism and a big white cat.
Kazda recalls her entrance into the world of photography as “almost by accident.”
Technically trained in the field of psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Kazda is a self-described “science geek” and although she enjoyed painting and creating jewelry, she never thought of herself as an artist.
However, four years ago, in order to stay more connected with her father who was interested in photography, Kazda decided to go around Markesan and take photos she could share with him.
“I just had a little point-and-shoot camera and would email photos to him,” she said.
What she found in this amateur camera was “love at first sight” as she traversed the city trying to capture interesting images for her dad.
Kazda’s father then gifted her one of his better cameras and a macro lens and she noted that is when “things got serious.”
The macro lens enabled Kazda to photograph subjects extremely close up. “I was photographing elements in the natural world like insects and flowers,” she said.
But Kazda still wanted to go a different path with her photography and that’s how she discovered spectral light.
“We had this glass table in our living room and when the sun hits it it creates this spectral rainbow on the floor and I thought, ‘That is really interesting,’” she recalled. “So I ordered a prism to see if I could recreate that spectral light in photography.”
Then one day, when she was trying to photograph the prism’s light onto a white piece of paper on the floor, she had an unexpected visitor.
“All of a sudden Riff, my big white cat, came in and sat on the paper and he just lit up,” Kazda said. “He was looking right at me and I was able to capture that moment. It knocked my socks off seeing that.”
Perhaps Kazda’s surprise is one of the most profound aspects of her work — her own innocence to the extraordinary beauty she has created.
Kazda doesn’t know of anyone else in world who creates art quite like hers, work that she has named “Spectral Light Photography” after her invented system of using spectral light from a prism in sunlight to light and color various subjects.
Thus, Kazda continues to push the boundaries she has set for herself.
She works with white flowers, paper, glass, string — anything that can reflect the large swaths of color she channels onto it using prisms.
With a remote control designed for the camera, Kazda is able to work with her materials as she takes the images, so that she can constantly be working with the light in order to capture the perfect color combinations.
“The light just amazes me and it is always different depending on the time of day,” Kazda said. “My workflow is not a ‘one-and-done’ process of photography. Often, I come up with an idea and start shooting several different versions of that idea. I continually refine my vision. It can take many hours or weeks to achieve the final shot. At the end of a day of shooting, I may not come up with an image I like. It is still a successful day as long as I have evolved my ideas and techniques.”
She added that her “poor husband” comes into the kitchen and can barely get around all of her materials.
Some of the more unusual subjects for Kazda’s art are parchment cooking paper and microscope coverslips.
“I created jewelry before photography, so I had lots of weird stuff laying around and I just like to experiment,” she said.
Her process is constantly evolving and she figures out new ways to capture the complexity of reflected light.
Kazda’s first exhibit took place in June at Town Square, with more than 50 people attending the opening night.
She’s now been notified that she’ll receive an award for her piece “The Conversation: White Cyclamen in Spectral Light from a Prism” from the Royal Horticultural Society Photographic Competition.
This is the first competition she has entered.
While the genius behind her process remains Kazda’s secret, the benefits may be enjoyed by all who happen upon her work.