When it comes to highly imaginative and emotive photography, I believe that Karen Jerzyk crafts the most evocative visual stories. Each of her projects make great examples of powerful storytelling and exceptional concepts. But, I think “The Last of Us” series particularly stand out. If you’re a fan of surreal visuals and stirring narratives, I’m sure this conceptual photography series will resonate with you as well.
As a self-taught photographer, she began with photographing bands and live performances, but eventually found her way to shooting portraits and models exclusively. Eventually, she developed her signature style of shooting elaborate scenes in abandoned buildings, putting great attention to the details that support her poignant narratives.
It all began with a vintage space suit
In 2018, Karen chanced upon a vintage space suit which inspired her to start “The Last of Us.” The idea, she shared on her project statement, was “sort of an ‘earth loses gravity and is near uninhabitable’ type of vibe.” The result is a powerful visual story of lonely cosmonauts interacting with the worlds, characters and elements born out of Karen’s imagination.
I think this highly creative series is more relevant and provoking at this time, when humanity is actively navigating and ruminating topics like isolation, climate change and space exploration. I also find it impressive how Karen’s concept was effectively anchored on a single item — the space suit — and it fit like a glove with her signature style.
Exploring loneliness with surrealism
For me, what makes “The Last of Us” such a striking body of work is how it effectively navigates themes of loneliness and solitude using surrealism. As with most of her projects, the abandoned buildings and the carefully curated scenes she builds in them work really effectively to set the mood for the entire series. Complementing the props, the costumes and the set design are eye-catching colors that complete the gripping, dream-like imagery fitting of her story. By approaching this story through surrealism, Karen was also able to present to us a complex mix of emotions tied to themes mentioned above.
Conceptual photography is among the most challenging genres to get into, but series like this prove that it’s also among the most creatively rewarding. I believe that working on a project like this once in a while is an effective exercise in creative thinking, which in turn will benefit our other projects. Karen’s style may seem too elaborate or complicated to pull off for anyone trying it out for the first time. But I hope this body of work can at least inspire you to start thinking about a story of your own to translate into a powerful photography project.
All photos by Karen Jerzyk. Used with Creative Commons permission.