Kayla Barker: Encaustic & Photography

Photography by Sarah Goss

Fine art photographer Kayla Barker is combining her photographs with encaustic, creating some truly special and unique pieces. We chat life, work, and the creatively therapeutic act of working offscreen for a change.


I am a full time wedding and portrait photographer living in Texas that specializes in shooting primarily film for all of my work. I earned a degree in graphic design and I started my own studio once I graduated in 2007. 

After getting married in 2008, I decided to take the leap and pursue photography as more then just a hobby. I had grown up always taking photos of family and friends and documenting my life, but I wanted to share that passion and document other people’s stories and relationships as well! This is my seventh year as a professional photographer and I am so blessed to have meet amazing people and travel to some fantastic places because of it!

In 2013, I decided to take another crazy leap and begin shooting film for my professional work. Switching from digital to film has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life. My focus in being a fine art film photographer is to not simply take images, but to create them.

Seven years ago, I would never believe that I would be where I am today having photographed couples in New York, Paris, Los Angeles, the Caribbean and all over the States. I was honored to be inducted into The Knot Hall of Fame and nominated in Belle Lumiere’s Film Photographer of the Year Award and have been featured in publications and on blogs such as The Knot, Style Me Pretty, Magnolia Rouge, Utterly Engaged, Grey Likes Weddings, Junebug Weddings, Wedding Sparrow, 100 Layer Cake, Belle Lumiere and more.  I will also be hosting a photography workshop this July in France! I love teaching and sharing my passion with others!

It has taken years of hard work and lots tears, but photography and creating art is my passion and I am excited to see what the future holds!

What sparked the idea/interest to create your encaustic pieces?

In 2013, I was really burned out with all the time I was spending on the computer and I wanted to find something that I could do as a creative outlet with my photos.While catching up on some reading in the airport, I came across an article in Rangefinder about Leah MacDonald, an encaustic artist who paints her photos with encaustic medium - a mixture of beeswax and damar resin. I was instantly intrigued and I began researching everything I could about encaustic art so I could try it for myself.

Can you walk us through the encaustic process?

Almost all of the photos I use have been shot on film with one of my many film cameras. I print the photo and mount it to a wood board so that the wax can’t bend and crack.

I use the encaustic wax medium and I brush or pour the wax over the photo. The photo becomes cloudy, but then I scrape away certain areas to reveal parts of the image. I also use the wax to add more texture to certain areas. I also scrape lines or words into the wax.

Once it has cooled, I will apply oil paint and pigments into the cracks and on the surface to add color and enhance all the texture.

What is your intention when you create?

My work is an expression of how I view the world. Small glimpses captured on film and forever documented in how they existed in that present time. Preserving a little piece of history through my lens, I work with film cameras, old and new, to photograph places and details that move me. Through my work, I let the past continue to live on and evoke emotions in the viewer.

In my desire to preserve these memories even more, I use encaustic wax to preserve my photographs and other found items. Encaustic wax medium is an old form of painting and preserving and I use it to fuse together my realistic view of the world and parts of my imagination. I layer and distort the wax to bring texture, depth and feeling to my photographs and art.

Through my work, I let the past continue to live on and evoke emotions in the viewer.

My desire is to take something that is flat and breathe life back into it through texture. Just like life, my work is messy, imperfect and sometimes distorted, foggy and unclear, but that is what makes it real.

Is it therapeutic to spend time away from the camera/editing table to do hands on work?

Yes! I love creating and getting my hands messy! It’s hard to find time to step away from work and create, but I truly think that every artist needs to take time for themselves to get inspired and not worry about what others think, but just play and have fun creating.

Did you grow up creating/in a creative household?

My mom and grandma are both super creative and crafty and I grew up always working on some art or craft project with them. My husband’s aunt has become my “art friend” since she is also the artistic one in their family and we like to try new techniques together. I am definitely the artist in my family that is always trying something new and being a little bit crazy. My family is super supportive of all my  new endeavors!

What is your favorite part about creating your pieces?

I think my favorite part is seeing someone else emotionally connect with a piece and love it. When I start a piece, I don’t really know exactly how it is going to turn out. I just play with it until it feels finished and then I put it out there for the world to see. Having someone purchase your art and love the process and work that went into it is really exciting and rewarding.