Photographer Transforms Abandoned Spaces into Haunting Fairy Tales

Dark Fairy Tales

Photographer Karen Jerzyk sees abandoned spaces as the ideal locales for her dark fairy tale images. Complete with peeling wallpaper, dusty stairwells, and water-stained ceilings, the forgotten settings act as supporting characters in haunting stories that reveal the deepest depths of the soul—and it's not all pretty. The vignette-style photographs look like moments frozen in time, but they aren't the type you'd want to remember. Instead, these fantastical images will make you wake up in a cold sweat.

Jerzyk’s path to producing the intriguing dark fairy tales came after years of shooting music and concerts portraits. “I was a poor artist,” she recalls, “with no direction and certainly no money for a studio.” This lack of funding proved to be a helpful constraint—it forced her to get creative. “I had seen a photo of a theater in an abandoned asylum via an internet search, and was immediately enamored with the image.” It was the beginning of a new direction.

As with all creative journeys, Jerzyk’s abandoned places series hit a plateau. “Visually, my photos were OK. Not TOO terrible, but I was never truly proud or satisfied with them,” she writes, “To me, it just seemed like something wasn't clicking.” Unfortunately, it took a tragedy to propel her work forward. The unexpected death of her father in 2011 left her struggling to cope with his absence. But at the same time, it was also the birth of her photography career.

“Suddenly, my photos displayed emotion,” she says. “They displayed stories and purpose and a sense of beautiful dismay, which was a direct mirror of how I felt on the inside. I poured all of my feelings and struggles into my work. I learned how to control how I felt and funnel it all into my ideas. I finally learned how to make the connection between imagery and emotion, and for once in my life I was satisfied and proud with what I was creating.”

Photographer Karen Jerzyk discovers abandoned spaces and uses them to illuminate her fantastical dark photography.

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The peeling paint, sunken walls, and dusty debris become their own character alongside the humans.

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The turning point for Jerzyk's dark fairy tales came after her father's unexpected death.

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“They [the photos] displayed stories and purpose and a sense of beautiful dismay, which was a direct mirror of how I felt on the inside. I poured all of my feelings and struggles into my work.”

Fantasy PhotographyDark PhotographyDark Photography Photography DarkDark Fairy TalesDark PhotographyKaren Jerzyk: Website | Facebook
h/t: [PetaPixel]

All images via Karen Jerzyk.

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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