Karolina Jonderko

Location: Warsaw
Nationality: polish
Biography: Born in 1985 in Rydultowy. Coal miner's daughter. M Most of her long-term projects are focused on the aftermath of loss. Experiencing it herself she wants to draw attention to the issues people face. Projects on this theme include... MORE
Public Story
Copyright Karolina Jonderko 2022
Updated Dec 2012
Topics Grant, Photography

Psychology student, Robert, did not attend his morning lectures, just as he did not catch the bus to the Jagielonski University in Krakow. He did get up early and take the rubbish out. And since then nobody has seen him or knows what has happened to him – that was 20th January 1995 when he was 21.

'Lost' is a long term project about missing persons in Poland. Since early may 2012 I have been traveling around the country to visit the families of missing persons to photograph their rooms and collect their portraits, in order to then, interpret them photographically in my own individual and subjective way.  This project brings combines images of 16 rooms, 16 portraits and 16 letters to highlight the plight of those who are missed and those who miss them.

With the support of the ITAKA Foundation, the only organization in Poland helping to search for missing people, I was put in touch with families, who agreed to take part in this project. From May 5th to September 25, 2012— I travelled 7,200 km around the country to photograph the empty rooms of these missing people. Each family also gave me a handwritten letter addressed to the missing loved one. 

Every year the police file 15,000 missing person reports. Every day these absent faces look out from posters designed to attract our attention, yet with every passing day we notice them less. We become as immune to these posters, as we do to their faces. Only those who have lost someone in these circumstances can begin to imagine the pain these families are going through. Their feelings teeter between loss and hope. Often the rooms of the missing lost ones are left untouched, for several months, years, and even decades.

Although each story is unique, all of them raise questions: What happened? Where is she? When will he be back? Is there anything else we can do to find her? Is he suffering? Is she alive? is he alive?

The project ‘Lost’ is a symbiosis of two interpretations, one strictly documentary and the other personal: the artist’s voice. The first act is a series of empty spaces that I visited. These intimate portraits of frozen lives, time standing still, reflect a memory: an armchair in the corner with carefully folded rugs, a room with a clock collection, or an animal print throw immaculately arranged on a sofa; these are the tangible marks and evidence of existence. Somebody lived in these places; somebody was there, sitting at the table, sleeping on the sofa, living.

The second act  is a collection of portraits of the missing people, this time captured in a very individual and subjective way. In the first act the compositions are untouched, in contrast, the second part is a personal take, my interpretation of remembrances and time. The sixteen portraits are differentiated by the sharpness of focus. Often it is not possible to recall information, or associations, which is testament to the slow, but inevitable process of forgetting.

This project has several goals: 1) An Intervention to reinvigorate the efforts to find the missing; 2) Prevention to build awareness of the huge pain caused when someone goes missing; 3) Awareness in order to bring this issue to people’s attention, not only in Poland, but all over the world; 4) and, my personal exploration of the links between depression and disappearance


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