“Self portrait with my Mother” by Karolina Jonderko

By in General, Interviews on 1. April 2015

For the jurney clothes

“Self-portrait with my mother” is an attempt of  the photographer to reflect what she was going through after her mother passed away.

I remember the joy caused by the discovery of Haribo jellies, Nutella and margarine among colourful clothes packed in heavy 15-kilo cardboard boxes. We used to get huge packages from relatives who lived in West Germany, when Poland was lacking many basic things. It was a celebration, the whole family was present for the grand opening.

These clothes, even though second-hand, were good enough for Mum, she never felt the need to buy new ones. She preferred to save money for more important expenses. She always looked modest and didn’t like black. Some say that what one wears is a part of creating one’s identity. My mother, all her life, wore clothes that she hadn’t chosen.

I’ve been reliving the past and have lived in the past since she passed away in 2008. All my work has been building on my memories and longing. “Self-portrait with my mother” is an attempt to summarise that period, move beyond the past – a final reconciliation with reality.

My grandmother’s house is empty and cold now, mining damage slowly changed it into ruin. This is where my mother, my sister and me grew up. It is here where I brought clothes after the death of mother. And now when also my grandmother passed away, it is here where I’ve been taking self-portraits, recreating the dresses and outfits from my memory exactly like my mother use to match them. I’ve tried another set which we got in one of those big packages so many years ago.
I”ve found her blond hair on the green coat.


Karolina Jonderko is a young polish photographer who has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Her work focuses on experiences and childhood memories and often deals with the intimate topic of loss. Karolina has been shortlisted for the Ideas Tap & Magnum Award 2014. OSTLOOK caught up with Karolina to discuss her projects, her way of working and her inspirations.

OSTLOOK: How did you come to photography?

Karolina: My first camera was an old Russian Zenit and I took lots and lots of pictures with it like everyone else. Then in 2003 I got my first digital camera, which had just 2 megapixels. Four years later, in 2007, I seriously considered to be a photographer and got accepted into the Photography and Film School of Warsaw. When my mom passed away a year later, I started to have weird dreams and decided to photograph them. That was the the time when my real photography has started.

OSTLOOK: What would you say are the most rewarding aspects of what you do?

Karolina Jonderko: My project „Self portraits with my mother“ was exhibited during the Photomonth in Krakow. Incidentally, editor of the polish magazine Wysokie Obcasy saw my work there and decided to publish it along with my interview. Through the next days I was shocked and surprised to find thousands of emails from people, readers of the magazine, who also had lost someone. They found my project relieving and appealing to their own stories. It gave me the feeling that I can do powerful things through my photography!

OSTLOOK: Let’s talk about your current work – tell us what are you working on at the moment!

Karolina Jonderko: I work on the series about reborn doll communities. Reborn dolls are manufactured with many similarities to real babies. They are a powerful therapy tool.

OSTLOOK: How do you find people for that series?

Karolina Jonderko: Unlike the Lost project where an organization helped me to find families of missing people, I need to search protagonists for my new project by myself. Firstly, I was using an Internet platform but failed. The community is very cautious about the media so I had to change the way of research. I attended some events of reborn communities where I got to know a couple of women with whom I continue to work. A project like this needs a lot of time to be completed and it is still a lot of trust to be gained.

OSTLOOK: What is your general approach towards photography projects?

Karolina Jonderko: A lot of my work is about research and access. Interviews with families of missing people were as valuable as photography in the Lost project. In the project about reborn dolls I needed a lot of time to find contacts to women whom I can portray. Generally, I need around a year to complete a project.

OSTLOOK:What are you inspirations in photography?

Karolina Jonderko: There are so many. Although our styles are completely different I admire many photojournalists from Magnum, Sputnik Photos and NAPO Agency which was mentoring my last project. Classic movies are also such a great source of inspiration!

OSTLOOK: Which is the best advice you can give for young photography students?

Karolina Jonderko: A great war photographer and my friend Greg Marinovich used to tell to his students: „You need to be honest, you should do photography that it’s close to your heart“ That’s the best tip and there is absolutely nothing to add!

OSTLOOK: Thank you, Karolina, and good luck for your new project and the last round of the Magnum Award!

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