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.”