Photographer Urszula Kluz-Knopek transformed the paralyzing fear of her parent’s death into a transcendent photography exhibit starring them. Here’s what Urszula had to say about ‘Twilight’.
WYD: Where did the inspiration for Twilight come from?
UKK: I am a late child of my parents. My first memories from childhood were about fear of dying of my mom and dad. I remember when I was with them visiting the grave of my grandma and I was counting how many years we have together. From that time contemplation of dying was with me all the time, every day. I thought that everybody thinks in the same way. I was wrong. About seven years ago I decided to find out why I am so interested in dying why I am thinking about passing all the time. Sometimes I am thinking that all of my artworks are about the same topic but from a different perspective.
Twilight was my very intimate project because it was about my biggest fear. I was observing my parents, their love (they are in love as teenagers!) Their lust for life [is strong] and I was looking to illustrate it. Then I found a story about Peter Pan who, as a demon of immortality, promises living forever in a wonderful land. But living forever means also living without feeling, real closeness, and the experience of mortality which makes us who we are. I decided to combine these two aspects and make a photo story about it. Firstly, I was talking with my mom and dad, then I was drawing ideas for photos. At the end, I was making photos based off sketches. The whole process of work on the Twilight project took over 2 years.
WYD: What was the experience like for your parents? And for you?
UKK: They support me very much in my activities. We [became] very close when we were working, talking and just being together. For example, it was late summer when I went to make the last photos. It was that one with my father lying in a stream in mountains. I was waiting all year for late summer sunlight. I love this kind of light and I need it, but i broke my leg and I had a heavy cast on. It was hard for me to walk with the heavy camera (i make photos with medium format camera) on the mountains. I was thinking about giving up, but my father was motivating me “You can do it! I will take you on my back to do your pictures.” And we did it together … it was lots of great moments together, behind making these photos. It is important to make the last chapter of life a creative part, not just full of fear and social isolation.
WYD: What do you hope people will take away from the exhibit?
UKK: It is important for me to make end of life as important a part of life as it is, with all circumstances and life experience. I don’t like thinking of being old as a part of life spent in social isolation or even as making it infantile with thinking about it as a “second youth”. For me, every part of life is important. Being old is just as important as being young. And there is time for both. It depends on us whether we will deny it or treat it with equal courtesy and respect.
View the full Twilight exhibit and more by Urszula Kluz-Knopek here.
Kelly MacLean is a humorist, writer and host of The Tao of Comedy podcast where she tricks comedians into waxing poetic about the nature of reality. She’s a proud member of the When You Die team and hosts WYD podcast.