Using Photography to Work Through Grief

Karolina Jonderko used the method of self-portraiture as a means to deal with her mother's passing.

Polish photographer Karolina Jonderko lost her mother at a young age in 2008. One can imagine the shock and grief that a young person experiences after losing a parent. Four years after her mother’s death, Jonderko started to relive the past and worked through her pain by building up her memories. She decided to turn to the clothing left behind by her mother, as a means of exploration of her mom’s identity. She clothed herself in the outfits that she associated with her mom and even found traces of her mother’s hair, surely a hard moment to endure. By dressing herself in her mother’s clothes, she found reconciliation with the past and healing to move forward.

“Kindergarten Clothes” © Karolina Jonderko
“Sunday Best Clothes” © Karolina Jonderko
“Home Clothes” © Karolina Jonderko
“Holiday Clothes” © Karolina Jonderko
“Winter Clothes” © Karolina Jonderko

Jonderko explains the memory of her mom receiving clothes, “I remember the joy of discovering Haribo jellies, Nutella and margarine among colorful clothes packed in heavy cardboard boxes we used to get from relatives who lived in West Germany, when Poland was lacking many basic things. It was a celebration, the whole family was present for these grand openings of gift boxes.

The clothes, mostly second-hand, were good enough for mother. She never felt the need to buy new ones, preferring 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 had never chosen.”


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