Five years ago, while at a Manitou Springs playground with her daughter, Brenda Biondo inadvertently found artistic inspiration.
"There's a plastic tube slide and the sun was hitting it ... [it made] this really interesting circular abstract image," she recalls.
That illuminating moment has led to Biondo shooting old playground equipment around the region for the next five years and landing exhibits in galleries regionally over the past year. In recent weeks, she has traveled to New Mexico in continuing her playground series.
Biondo, 45, started photography as a hobby in college, but set it down while pursuing a career in public relations and corporate communications. It was only with the birth of her first child that she rediscovered her passion.
"I might not have even gotten back into photography if it wasn't for the kids," says Biondo, now a full-time artist and mother of two.
Now she's starting to display her other main project: wildflower and grass photography. Found Flora opens this week in the Business of Art Center's Avenue Gallery.
"There's so much that's really beautiful and really interesting right under my feet," Biondo says in talking about her botanicals series. To create an X-ray-like effect, Biondo uses an ordinary scanner and photography software to convert images into black-and-white or sepia tone. The scanner's sharp lens picks up the fine detail of the plants, which include grasses with curlicue tips, pasque flowers, yucca blooms and more. They are further framed by a stark background, which is produced by a black tent laid over the lidless scanner. The method is known as scanography.
Sometimes while the kids are napping, Biondo will collect fresh specimens behind her home in Cascade. Within hours, she can produce several prints.
Biondo also spent years working as an environmental conservation journalist, and maintains an activist stance in her photography. From her shows, including a current collection in Manitou's RetroMoto Toys, she donates a portion of sales to various charitable organizations. Ten percent of the sales for Found Flora will benefit the Palmer Land Trust.
"I'm making art, [and] a lot of people say that's enough," she says. "But I want to tie it into something else, even if it's just a little bit."
Biondo says she will pursue her botanical and vintage-playground projects for years. She's particularly excited to see how they will evolve and change, perhaps taking on a documentary edge, over time.
"I have to accept that I have no idea where this is going to go," she says, admitting that she is not a photography "purist."
Her all-digital portfolio may strike some darkroom loyalists as amateur, yet within the first year of exhibiting her art, all her applications for solo shows have been accepted.
"I'm having fun and success just shooting from the hip," she says. "I shoot what I like, and that seems to work."