Warsaw in Winter

Warsaw in Winter

Traveling to Poland for Christmas was a decision I made for a few distinct reasons. One, it was a postmortem readjustment to my father’s death. I had been to Poland before, both times in the spring, in May but I wanted to have the winter light in my photos on this trip. I wanted to feel the deathly cold winter of Poland, like my father did.

I went to Poland to continue my documentary on my father, a survivor of eight Nazi forced labor camps. Because my father passed away on Christmas, I wanted to awaken in his country, on the third anniversary of his death, to help me deal with a grief too deep for tears while simultaneously feeling a near-umbilical attachment to this country I love, a country with a past filled with too much sadness to ever understand.

© hannah kozak

I arrived on Christmas Eve. After a Polish man kindly helped me figure out how to buy a bus ticket from the ticket booth (I’m not a fan of cabs) I sat on my bus seat, staring out of the windows for a familiar site. When I exited at Warsaw University, I had the surprise of seeing purple and white holiday decorations– instead of the customary red and green in Los Angeles– leading into Old Town, where I like to stay. The location opening on Castle Square overlooked the Vistula River and granted a stunning view of Old Town. I heard the bell chimes of the Royal Castle, which was rebuilt only thirty years ago after being destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. In my small, quiet hotel room, I have a desk to write at as well as two bay windows to look out of where I photographed the view of the Vistula River and the changing light, throughout the day and night.

© hannah kozak

Krakowskie Przedmiescie & Plac Pilsudskiego, Warsaw

© hannah kozak

View of Vistula River in Old Town
Fuji XT1 w/16-55mmF2.8 LM WR

© hannah kozak

Old Town – Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/16-55mmF2.8 LM WR

I was in so much anguish on this third trip to Poland. My cat Jackson died suddenly three days after I arrived in Warsaw and I was alone in my hotel room. “No! No! No!” I screamed, in part because I was in shock and in part because I thought I could undue it all. I didn’t want to leave my hotel room yet I also needed the freezing cold air of Warsaw to help me breathe as I avoided making eye contact with strangers. I felt so useless to Jackson that all I could do was chant. I had left him at the vet and that was the last time I saw him. I was processing regret at leaving my companion with a specialist that I didn’t know but who said he would heal my little friend. My pain was profoundly humbling. The only thing I could come up with to self soothe was mantra so I played it nightly.

The state of grief continued as I traveled through Poland, seeing and experiencing Poland, in that emotional state. Something about the death of Jackson helped me get in touch with my father’s tremendous losses. Grief is grief and it colors everything.

© hannah kozak

Jackson – 3 days before he passed.

Jackson brought me infinite joy. I loved the sound of his paws hitting the hard wood floors in the morning as he and his brother ran to the kitchen, eager for breakfast. He used to plead with me to let him go outside and only liked being hugged on the futon in the television room. He’s gone but the memories of him will stay with me like a faded photograph.

@ hannah kozak

Michael & Jackson – 1 Nov 2011

@ hannah kozak

M & J – 17 Nov 2011

© hannah kozak

M & J – 16 April 2012

© hannah kozak

Michael and Jackson – 22 May 2012

© hannah kozak

Jackson & Michael – 4 Jan 2013

I experienced grief and joy simultaneously at retracing my father’s footsteps through war torn Poland as I mourned the loss of my friend and didn’t sleep well for eight nights.

Prior to World War II, Warsaw was the leading center of secular Jewish culture in Eastern Europe. At one time, only New York had a larger Jewish population. I could imagine the diverse vitality of Jewish life here. From Warsaw’s turbulent history to the beauty of the rebuilt city, I was inspired. From the hot bowls of soup served with fresh baguettes to the sound of the language I don’t understand but resonate with, to the architecture of Gothic buildings made of brick and to cathedrals made of stone and Romanesque architecture and the kindness from strangers I am repeatedly impressed with, Poland has a piece of my tired and hurting heart.

On a side note, I was able to put the Fuji XT1 to use. This is a photographer’s camera and one of many cool features, it is weather resistant, which helped a lot in the cold of Poland. It’s responsive and I’m impressed with this mirrorless camera. There was no giant learning curve, it’s as intuitive as my Nikon FM from back in the 1980’s. No more lugging around DSLR’s.

© hannah kozak

Old Town, Warsaw
Fuji XT1 w/16-55mmF2.8 LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/16-55mmF2.8 LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

@ hannah kozak

My favorite restaurant for soup and bread.
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

@ hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

 © hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

I love getting around Poland via buses & trains.
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Dusk in Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Directly outside Old Town in Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

 © hannah kozak

Fantastic walking guides in Warsaw, Poland.
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Children in Old Town; Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55 mm F 2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF16-55 mm
F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Self Portrait en route to Museum of the History of Polish Jews – Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55 mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Old Town – Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55 mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland.
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

@ hannah kozak

Self Portrait at my favorite place to stay in Warsaw: Dom Literatury.
Fuji XT 1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55 mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Old City – Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

It has been said that Poland is dead, exhausted, enslaved, but here is the proof of her life and triumph.
Henryk Sienkiewicz

Warsaw in Winter


Why I’m Lighting Yahrzeit Candles on Christmas – My Father’s Hands & Feet

Fine Art Photographer shares intimate moments from death

W. Eugene Smith said photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to thought. A writer writes about someone’s struggles as an act of compassion and caring.  Giving shape to something painful helps us to process our grief by sharing it. Sharing words and photos decreases the burden we are carrying. By sharing my feelings and photos, perhaps I reach another person who is or has carried the burden of grief. Just as I take refuge in travel, I find healing in sharing. Author Dorothy Allison said if you don’t break out in a sweat of fear of what you write, you have not gone far enough. This one made me sweat.

My father began to leave his physical body after only two nights in the hospital. His last request was a black bean burrito, no guacamole, from Poquito Mas. I brought it to him for lunch, not knowing that it would be his last meal. Watching my father die in a sterile hospital seemed like a privilege compared to how his entire family was killed at Auschwitz and Treblinka by gassing.I felt blessed I could have the opportunity to mourn my father in a way he never could mourn his family in Poland, because he never saw any of their bodies after they were killed.

I was witness to the process of his body shutting down. At any given moment, either one or more of my brothers was in the room or my sister or niece, nephew, and the endless stream of nurses with machines to keep checking him so billing could continue even after he was heading through the astral plane. My sister refused to leave because he asked her not to leave him alone. She slept in the bed next to his. I would go home to sleep and no matter when I returned, she was in the room.   As my sister held his hand, I was pained by the thinness of his skin. I kept caressing the paper-thin skin on his arm, as if my rubbing could keep his arm from bleeding more. I had one-way conversations with my father. I kept telling him it was okay for him to go to G-d. I knew he could hear me.

As I always did in life, I continued to make photos as his death was imminent. The process was exhausting and while some may view the photos as callous, for myself it was more that I wanted one last look at my father, the man who taught me to stand on my own two feet. From a higher perspective than judgment, these photos are about love.  I was attempting, in my humble way, to make sense of his departure from my world and his. By documenting my father’s death, I was reaching out for one last moment of immortality, trying to make sense of his journey back home to G-d.

© hannah kozak

I saw my father reach for someone that was not part of this world. In that moment, with that reach, my father showed me there is more than just this life. Photography is death of a moment.Death is the eidos of the photograph. According to Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, the book he wrote in 1979 hailed as the “subtle, most original, most sympathetic literary intelligence of the age” a photograph is a return of the dead.Death is the great equalizer.  We turn into energy and disappear. My father gave me a great gift before he left his physical body. I was on his left side, my sister was on his right. He reached out past me, towards the ceiling, the heavens. “Grab his hand, Hannah” my sister said. “He’s reaching for you.” “No I said” immediately and without hesitation. “He’s not reaching for me.”

My oldest brother and my sister were in the room with my father and I at the end. His hands and feet grew swollen as his skin both softened and wrinkled. On Christmas Eve, I watched his inhale become short and labored until there was barely an inhale left and mainly his exhale. Then, on Christmas morning, the final inhale that lasted too long, a labored gurgled exhale, which made my sister jump, and his soul left the space. Silence. The machine helping him breathe was still inhaling and exhaling for him. He was not. “What do we do” my brother asked to anyone who might have an answer. I said “Don’t call the nurses yet. I need a moment alone with him.”

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak


It was an honor to be with him until the end. I experienced a surreal and grounding experience. Hospice nurse, Maggie Callanan has witnessed more than two thousand deaths and says “dying people have the uncanny ability to choose the moment of death, and it’s not uncommon for them to spare those they love the most or feel protective of by waiting until those people leave the room.”  I’ve heard so many stories of people waiting until their loved ones left the room before they die. Not my father, he really never liked being alone. Leaning into my father, I smelled decay. I gently removed his blue and white socks off his swollen feet and tucked them into my purse, where I found them ten days later, rolled up in a ball.  I feel sad, numb, but also relief that he isn’t suffering any more.
I made some photos of his hands as he was in the hospital, as well as over the years. I loved my father’s hands and feet.
© hannah kozak 24 April 2010

©hannah kozak

25 April 2010

25 April 2010

27 April 2012

© hannah kozak

19 May 2012

27 June 2012

27 June 2012

27 June 2012

27 June 2012

26 June 2012

26 June 2012

25 Sept 2012

25 Sept 2012

I often wondered about his hands. Those strong hands dug potatoes with two friends from the barracks in the hard, dirt ground, in the dark, as he was a prisoner who worked in eight Nazi camps. The next night he decided not to go out  when his friends started to leave. Not only were his friends caught but their punishment for stealing potatoes was death.  He told me about taking his hand and wiping the back of his neck, seeing it filled with crawling vermin from the filthy conditions in the forced labor camps he lived in.

His feet, I wondered about the towns he walked in Poland alone, after a year in the hospital, looking for his family after he was liberated from Dernau on May 8, 1945.  I can’t imagine what it felt like to know there wasn’t one family member or friend on the face of the earth who knew who he was. No one who remembered one of his birthdays, no one to recall a favorite story with, no one to share a “remember when we ditched school” laugh.

My photographs are the voice that continues after my father’s death. In some way, my photos keep him alive. They remind me of the strong wings he had to develop because he had to learn to fly solo. I feel honored my father choose me to walk with him to the end of his road on the earth plane and I found beauty in the midst of my grief. The shroud of death followed my father throughout his life but his strength and tenacity created rebirth and resurrection. There was no closure from the losses of his entire family during the war but his hope kept him moving forward until it was time for him to go back home, one more time. His death, a learning process and experience he left behind, for those who will follow someday.

©hannah kozak

(The opening lines of James Fenton’s A German Requiem)

A German Requiem – James Fenton

It is not what they built.

It is what they knocked down.

It is not the houses. It is the spaces in between the houses.

It is not the streets that exist. It is the streets that no longer exist.

It is not your memories which haunt you.

It is not what you have written down.

It is what you have forgotten, what you must forget.

What you must go on forgetting all your life.

And with any luck oblivion should discover a ritual.

You will find out that you are not alone in the enterprise.

Yesterday the very furniture seemed to reproach you.

Today you take your place in the Widow’s Shuttle.

“There are too many of us and we are all too far apart.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

Fine Art Photographer shares intimate moments from death


My Mother’s Dolls part 2

This is Part Two of the series, My Mother’s Dolls. These photos are a continuation of the series: He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard, which began in December 2009. My mother is in a wheelchair, brain damaged from her second husband’s abuse. She cannot pick up the phone when she is feeling lonely to hear a familiar voice. Or take a walk in the neighborhood, listening to birds singing. Reading a book isn’t an option. She can’t reach out for a dog or cat to pet. Yet she manages to smile at the littlest things, like her dolls. Small reassuring beings, friends in quiet moments.

I have been a participant observer, documenting my mother’s nearly adult lifetime confinement to a nursing home after a brutal beating by her second husband.

I will continue to focus on the comfort objects that help my mother get through her day. These nurturing dolls are my mother’s friends, day and night.

Hannah_Kozak_My_Mother's_Dolls-1109

© hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Guatemalan doll

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

In emergency room

© hannah kozak

Dora and Hello Kitty

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Dinner time

© hannah kozak

 © hannah kozak

My mother was having lunch. I walked into her room and saw her freshly made bed.


Auschwitz – Remembering and Not Forgetting

Auschwitz – Remembering and Not Forgetting

@ hannah kozak

“Work Sets You Free”
Entrance to Auschwitz

I made my first sojourn to Auschwitz in 2013 and I have been haunted by the images I saw ever since. Yet I have also found Auschwitz to be a place of contemplation – an invitation to meditation. Photography has always kept me from forgetting, so camera in hand, I return to this place of killing of innocent souls hoping to honor the nameless and faceless. I can’t help but wonder if evil can’t be overcome by looking it square in the face.

Visiting Auschwitz required me to not forget the significance of its’ past, while simultaneously being forced to remember it. I read many books about the Holocaust throughout my entire life -beginning with Escape from Warsaw when I was in grade school and throughout my teens. I continued to devour similar culturally and historically relevant books when I started a project on my father’s journey from his hometown of Bedzin, Poland to many forced labor camps in Markstädt, Klettendorf, Hundsfeld , Hirschberg, Bad Warmbrunn and Ermannsdorf. He was sent to Hirschberg twice before he was liberated from Dernau on May 8, 1945. Even with such emotional proximity to this history, I still wasn’t prepared for seeing tools designed to kill people in person. Fences, barbed wire, barracks, crematorium. The controversial historian Ernst Nolte refers to the Holocaust as “a past that will not pass away.” Indeed, I have always felt the more I study the Holocaust, the less I understand about humanity.

I felt an existential delirium being in Auschwitz. Standing in line with people for the tour felt too confining, so as I have always done, I got out of line and went off on my own. Getting out of line is what saved my father’s life at the very end of his stay in those forced labor camps. He was told to get in line with all the other remaining inmates at Dernau. My father’s angels, (as he called them) or his intuition ( how I refer to his knowing), was always marvelous whether it came to people or situations. So when it told him to get out of line, he did and went immediately into the barracks. Had he not listened to that subconscious nudge, he would have ended upon a death walk with everyone else in that line. They were forced to dig their own graves before they were machine gunned down. Because my father broke the rules and got out of line, he was liberated by the Soviet armed forces one day later.

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz by hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz by hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz by hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz 24 block by hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz by hannah kozak

In some places, the pulse beats more than others. Poland is one of those places for me. I’ve heard people say that they could never visit Auschwitz but perhaps if they had a father that survived eight forced labor camps they would feel differently. I can’t imagine not wanting to see the labor, concentration and killing centers ** in person. Duality; making others wrong, is always judgment. I needed to see this place to help me keep remembering.

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz block 15 by hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz museum

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz museum

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz museum

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz museum

The Talmud describes the difference between remembering and not forgetting. Forgetting first occurs in the heart. It’s not cognitive. It’s the natural course of events that dispossess us from the event and then tragically, we are left devoid of the reason it was ever important to us to begin with. Remembering, on the other hand, is to engage in activities that promote remembrance.

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz museum

@hannah kozak

Auschwitz museum

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz museum by hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz museum by hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz museum by hannah kozak

My father found a way to make something out of nothing, so that he could survive. He created life out of a world of darkness. As a second generation Holocaust survivor, I feel it is my duty to not forget and to present the upside of my heavy heritage so it can be a catalyst, and not a yoke.

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz museum by hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz Krematorium

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz Krematorium

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz

@ hannah kozak

Trees – Auschwitz

I kept mostly to myself in school almost as if I was still hiding. One side of me was a happy girl that loved to laugh; the other side was a girl with sadness so overwhelming, I could never understand where it stemmed from. As a second generation Holocaust survivor, I understand that my father’s unprocessed grief and sadness was handed down, and it’s up to me, to transform that sadness into understanding the carefully orchestrated plan of genocide because the Jews believe, “He who saves one life, saves the entire world. ” I think it’s dangerous that the suffering and struggle of my ancestors will be forgotten with the passage of time. I must tell and retell the stories of our past, so that we will remain free, in the future.

** death camp is too vague, since taken literally it evokes the image of a place in which a large number of people died, such as the footage of dead bodies taken in Dachau and Buchenwald, which misleadingly, are often shown as backdrop in documentaries on the Holocaust. “Death camp” could in theory apply to most concentration camps, many labor camps, and, in the winter of 1941/1942, virtually all camps for Soviet POWs. We prefer killing center because it denotes exactly and explicitly what the facility was established to achieve–to kill human beings as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

Auschwitz: Remembering and Not Forgetting


Celebrating Love on Michael Jackson’s Birthday

Celebrating Love on Michael Jackson’s Birthday

Michael Jackson would have been fifty-seven years old today. The now familiar black wrought iron gates signal the entrance to Forest Lawn Glendale. As I wind up the entrance I see Aleppo pines, a single rose here and there, flower arrangements, pinwheels of red, orange and blue spinning softly in the wind as the birds sing their songs.

@ hannah kozak

Holly Terrace

Amidst the roses, handmade cards, balloons, and stuffed animals is the feeling of love that Michael Jackson spread around the world with his music and his heart.

© hannah kozak

With love from Russia

Eleanor Roosevelt said “to do what you feel in your heart for you’ll be criticized anyway.” Michael embodied this throughout his life. Watching television as a young boy with his mother, he was moved to tears when he saw images of starving children in Africa. “Mother”, he vowed, “I’m going to do something about this someday.” And, true to his word, he did.

My hope is these photos show how Michael was loved and even though he was subjected to immense injustice, the fans know the truth even though the media was trying to tarnish his reputation throughout his career.

@ hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Marjorie from Scotland

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Alice in Hong Kong

I love the simplicity of this tiny bear with the note “Happy birthday to you in heavens.”

@ hannah kozak

Little bear from Iraa and Jude

Divina Baham organized “The Messenger of Love” Foundation back in 2011. They celebrate Michael’s birthday, his passing and bring bags of love out reach visiting homeless shelters, Shriner’s Hospital for Children and dedicated a tree to Michael at Lake Balboa. This year they brought a cake to Forest Lawn in honor of Michael.

Cake for Michael Jackson - 29 August 2015

Cake for Michael Jackson – 29 August 2015

Hitomi came from Japan for only 3 days. I was told by Hitomi’s friend that many Japanese visitors stay for such a short amount of days because they have to get back to work.

© hannah kozak

Hitomi – from Japan

Rieko from Japan on the other hand, came for 3 weeks to study English at a small school for her university back home. “My main purpose is Michael Jackson’s birthday” she told me. It was her first time in LA and in her own words, “a dream come true”. I thought it was so cute how she carried her MJ doll in the tiny bag with “I am King of Pop” on it.

© hannah kozak

Rieko – from Japan

I met Gloria Lopez. She told me she was 13 years old when her grandfather died. He was her father figure and her best friend, who took care of her since she was 3 months old. After he died, she became depressed and suicidal, as it was her first experience of death. She didn’t want to go to school, was getting “F” grades and was sent to a psychiatrist. She said “I heard “You Rock My World” in 2001 and it was the first time I smiled since my grandfather died. I started devoting myself to MJ research. I became an honor student and received a Masters In Art Education doing my thesis on Michael.” She told me she teaches art to children because of Michael’s influence on her.

@ hannah kozak

Gloria Lopez

I met Marguerite, who flew all the way from France. Her first time to the states was in 2012 for the Immortal World Tour. She saw the Immortal World Tour 2 times in France that same year. She returned to Forest Lawn in August, 2014 and saw the One show two times that year. This year she told me that she came to Los Angeles for Michael’s spiritual message.

© hannah kozak

Marguerite – France

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

I love you More – Maleah

@ hannah kozak

Nina from Poland

@ hannah kozak

Yumiko from Japan

@ hannah kozak

Yumiko from Japan

© hannah kozak

Roswitha Preib – Germany

© hannah kozak

Clotide – France

@ hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Rieko – L and Kaori – R
from Japan

Michael’s commitment to his art, no matter what was happening in his life, is a testament to the artist he was; always bearing his soul in his music. His ability to connect with his fans all around the globe is evident even six years after he has left his physical body. Even in the fierce California heat, people come from France, from Japan, from all around the world, to pay their respects to the Man in the Mirror, who built an army of love.

© hannah kozak

Roses from France

© hannah kozak

Flowers from Russia

© hannah kozak

I love this card!

© hannah kozak

Art work by Haruyo Sakuta

© hannah kozak

Backside of Michael on Eagle’s Back

 © hannah kozak

Yae Kojima – Japan

© hannah kozak

Yuka – Japan

© hannah kozak

Yuka Takahashi – Japan

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Maleah, Lorrie, Marilyn

© hannah kozak

Hong Kong

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

May Cheng – Hong Kong

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Captain Eo card – Japan

@ hannah kozak

2 Michael Bad dolls meet at Forest Lawn

 © hannah kozak

More gifts for Michael

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Russian fans

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

From Japan

© hannah kozak

Japanese dolls

One of Michael’s greatest gifts was how he cared for humanity and spread love. His Army of Love is still going strong, carrying the message that Michael was sharing with us his entire life: Love one another, take care of each other and continue to give, share and breathe love every step of our journey here. Michael was a spiritual messenger who walked his walk. He held up a mirror to humanity and in the end, Michael’s message continues to light the way.

Celebrating Love on Michael Jackson’s Birthday


Sylvia Plachy’s photography memoir: Self Portrait with Cows Going Home

Sylvia Plachy’s photography memoir: Self Portrait with Cows Going Home

@ Sylvia Plachy

Sylvia Plachy – Nightmare

Part of my desire to visit Budapest was to see where a photographer who is particularly dear to my heart was born. Sylvia Plachy lived in Hungary with her family until they were forced to leave because of the revolution in Europe when she was thirteen years old. Her story resonated with me because of her Eastern European childhood, which reminded me of my father’s childhood, growing up in Poland. She crossed the border with her parents from Hungary to Austria with a small suitcase and teddy bear in 1956. And, I loved imagining her arrival to the United States in 1958 – after two years as refugees in Vienna, carrying only her teddy bear and a larger suitcase.

I found a copy of Sylvia Plachy’s: Self-Portrait with Cows Going Home, during one of my late night Internet searches on photographers. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put the memoir down. I stayed up all night reading it, and was reminded of my own youth – staying up late to read stories about relatable people in faraway lands from my rollaway bed. I was drawn to it with intensity: the depth, humor and sadness. I stayed up nights for weeks, reading her memoir and studying her photographs. Her black and white images stirred my emotions making me both laugh and cry. I’m always drawn to old school photographers who come from a film background like Melvin Sokolsky, Diane Arbus and Douglas Kirkland. Sylvia’s photography deeply resonates with me – taking me on a journey of quiet, space, solitude and companionship.

Sylvia Plachy - Self Portrait with Cows Coming Home

Sylvia Plachy – Self Portrait with Cows Coming Home

The first photo in Self Portrait with Cows is one that her father made of her when she was 13 years old in Vienna. She’s in the snow and there is a building and a tree in the background. It’s a simple photo that begs so many questions. To me, a photo that asks questions, but doesn’t always give the answers is beautiful. This photo does exactly that.

Sylvia Plachy in Vienna

Sylvia Plachy in Vienna

In her memoir, Sylvia reflects on pre and post Communism and I adore how she captures the somber mood of that period with not only her writing but also with her photography of landscapes and people. Eight years after leaving Hungary, she returned with her camera to continue her passion for her homeland and its’ people.

The first two page spread in her book is called Translvanian woods, 2001. I felt the silence of solitude. I wondered about the fog that seemed to create a translucent space all around.

Part of the reason I feel connected to Sylvia Plachy is because, in some ways, she reminds me of my father. He had to start all over again as an immigrant in America, after losing his entire family in Poland to the Holocaust. He survived 8 Nazi forced labor camps and he was the only survivor of his 8 siblings, parents and grandparents. I am drawn to her art because she followed her heart and dream of being a photographer and showcases such humanity in her photography.

I made my way in the pouring rain to Mai Mano House at Nagymezo utca 20 on the Pest side. I was tired and I still haven’t found a cure for jet lag but I didn’t want to wait another moment to see her art. The building has wooden hand rails and stained glass. What a perfect treat for me to see a Sylvia Plachy exhibition for my first time. It is an exceptional building. I was impressed with how the show was organized with the pamphlet so one can walk around, self-guided and particularly, I could gather all the details I craved: the names and the years she made the pictures. It was well thought out and I love the title: When Will It Be Tomorrow? This was a question she used to ask when she was a child.

© hannah kozak

Mai Manó Ház
Budapest, Hungary

Here are some of my favorite photos from her show:

@ Sylvia Plachy

Groundhog, 1986
Silver gelatin print
37.5 x 37.5

@ Sylvia Plachy

Sylvia Plachy,
Lake Washington, Mississippi, 2009
Archival pigment print
26.5 x 72 cm

© hannah kozak

Sylvia Plachy
My Mother at My Father’s Grave, 1980
I find this one quieting, eerie, reflective, realistic and haunting.

@ Sylvia Plachy

Sylvia Plachy –
Flea Market Vendor’s Daughter, 1984
Silver gelatin print,
39 x 39 cm

@ Sylvia Plachy

Sylvia Plachy –
La Puta Vida, a play, Zselatinos ezust,
Silver gelatin print,
37.5 x 27.5 cm

@ Sylvia Plachy

Sylvia Plachy,
Dog on a Thin String, Moscow, 2000
Archival pigment print,
58 x 21.5 cm

I was drawn to the showcases with the photos of her son, actor Adrian Brody. My G-d, what a beautiful child he was and is. My favorite photo is a black and white image from when he is a child wearing a scarf in the snow. She captures so much emotion in the photo and he looks endearingly precious.

I also loved the black and white photograph of her son with a cigarette, and cat and the one with a puppy in his pocket! Oh my goodness it was darling and fun and made me wonder if it was a family pet.

It was a treat to watch the video showing her with her Leica M-6, her Rolleiflex 2.8F, and Hasselblad. I do feel that all great pictures have ghosts in them as she says. We also agree that the type of camera you are drawn to matters because each camera does something different. Self Portrait with Cows has even more meaning to me now that I have been in Budapest.

Plachy has succeeded in finding the meaning, the essence of life, that she sees with her photography. I am grateful to have discovered her. She is a true artist.

Goethe wrote that the hardest thing is to see what is in front of our eyes. Why I love Sylvia Plachy’s art so much is she does this so beautifully. She sees what is in front of her eyes. She was born with an innate talent and was savvy enough to put it to good use. I adore Sylvia Plachy and her art.

© hannah kozak

Hannah Kozak – Self Portrait @ Mai Manó Ház –

One of my favorite Sylvia Plachy epigrams:

“Flower-language,(virág-nyelv in Hungarian), is what speaking euphemistically was called. In totalitarian countries our lack of power made poets or liars of us all.”

Sylvia Plachy’s photographs used by permission.

Sylvia Plachy’s photography memoir: Self Portrait with Cows Going Home


Michael Jackson Is Remembered and Loved Six Years Later

Michael Jackson is Remembered and Loved Six Years Later

Although it’s hard to believe it’s been six years, it’s soothing, heart breaking and life affirming all at once to see how the love for Michael Jackson is as present as it was on the day we lost him. As Michael once said, “My fans truly are a part of me. We share something that most people will never experience.” After his death, we continue to share our passion and love for Michael with each other.

 © hannah kozak

My Three Michael Jackson dolls.

Every year on the anniversary of his death I make my way to Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, and walk slowly amidst a sea of love of homemade cards, stuffed animals,drawings, paintings, sunflowers, roses and handmade books from all over the globe. I see these offerings as proof. Proof there is love in every corner of the world from Japan to Korea, Italy to Germany to Poland as the fans pay their respects to the man, the man in the mirror who simply wanted to spread messages of love and tolerance, of forgiveness and kindness and of healing the world. When Michael sang, “Another Part of Me”, he was light years ahead in terms of consciousness. With his raised consciousness he acted with fearless integrity and understood the essence of this era: Recognize the other person is you.

@ hannah kozak

Forest Lawn Glendale,
25 June 2015

© hannah kozak

Flowers for Michael at Holly Terrace 25 June 2015

© hannah kozak

Bad era. Forest Lawn. 25 June 2015

I am under no illusion about how people judge Michael Jackson fans. And I am perfectly okay with that. I am part of a worldwide team that is fighting against injustice. Because I know who Michael Jackson was, not what the media tried to force feed down our throats. We are not willing to give up our fight against wrong. As Michael held up a mirror to himself, we hold up a mirror to the world, showing that spreading love, not hatred, is the answer.

© hannah kozak

Flowers from fans in Denmark. Forest Lawn.
25 June 2015

© hannah kozak

Forest Lawn,
25 June 2015

© hannah kozak

Miranda – Hong Kong
Forest Lawn,
25 June 2015

I grew up loving Michael Jackson’s music but there was so much more to him than that. It was Michael’s heart I deeply resonated with. I could feel how caring, other-centered and kind he was. And, in a sense, the worldwide grieving helped and continues to help me to feel that we are all one. That even though the loss feels as if it will never have closure, we are never, ever alone.

© hannah kozak

Poem to Michael,
Forest Lawn
25 June 2015

One Rose for Michael Jackson raised 15,537 roses this year. Seeing all the roses donated from fans around the world moves me to tears as I am enveloped in the sea of love of thousands of roses. And it keeps growing. The first year Robyn Starkand’s team raised 3,000 roses, then 4,500 then 10,000, and now more than 15,000. Every year, all the roses are donated to various charities after June 25.

© hannah kozak

One Rose for Michael Jackson.
25 June 2015

© hannah kozak

One Rose for Michael Jackson
25 June 2015

At Forest Lawn, I met Andrea Schneider and Lola Anderson from Dusseldorf and Eltville, Germany, who returned to the cemetery last year on June 26 to help donate some of the roses to charity and will be doing the same this year.

© hannah kozak

Robyn Starkand (Organizer of One Rose for Michael Jackson) with Andrea Schneider and Lola Anderson from Germany

I also met Nako and Fumiyo from Japan. I loved watching them kneel on the grass in front of Holly Terrace, as they removed all the carefully chosen items from bags they brought with them and arranged it all, which you can see here along with their homage to MJ.

© hannah kozak

Nako and Fumiyo from Japan. 24 June 2015
Forest Lawn

© hannah kozak

Nako from Osaka, Japan
Fumiyo from Tokyo, Japan
24 June 2015

I delivered roses to the Jewish Home for the Aged to continue to spread the love.

© hannah kozak

Roses at the Jewish Home for the Aged

The quilt that the fans in Japan make annually brings me to my knees. The fans meet on weekends throughout the year creating tiny, hand stitched, drawn, painted, individually created, pieces, all in the name of love, to blanket Michael with love. Here are some pieces of the quilt up close.

© hannah kozak

Maho & Yasuyo
Quilt from Japan
25 June 2015

© hannah kozak

Ayako from Japan

© hannah kozak

I especially love the “Heal the Kids” with the flying angel child

© hannah kozak

Yurika – Japanese quilt

© hannah kozak

Kana – Japanese quilt

© hannah kozak

Yuko Jackson- Japanese quilt

© hannah kozak

Rie – Japanese quilt

© hannah kozak

Ayuno Kuko – Japanese quilt
This piece brought me tears. She wrote “I enrolled high school in this spring. I chosen a art course. I have fun my school life. I want to become able to describe a painting like you well. So I study hard the art. Please watch me.” Look how Michael Jackson has inspired people all over the world! She is studying art and look how beautifully she paints.

© hannah kozak

Hiroko – Japanese quilt

@ hannah kozak

Yurika – Japanese quilt

© hannah kozak

Quilt from Japan

© hannah kozak

More passion from the Japanese fans’ quilt

© hannah kozak

Japanese quilt insert

© hannah kozak

Home made card from Wendy

© hannah kozak

Forest Lawn
25 June 2015

© hannah kozak

Flower arrangement from Japan

© hannah kozak

Marcus Petterman
Germany

© hannah kozak

Forest Lawn
25 June 2015

© hannah kozak

Hong Kong Fans
Forest Lawn
25 June 2015

© hannah kozak

Hong Kong

© hannah kozak

Flowers from around the globe

© hannah kozak

The flower arrangements just kept arriving

I met Wiedjai, who traveled from the Netherlands. He is a mechanical engineer who works with sustainable energy. He has traveled to California numerous times in support of Michael. He was here in 2003 and was invited into Neverland along with many other fans. He said he was offered ice cream, drinks, rode all the attractions and the train around the lush property. His description of Neverland is that “it was magic.” He returned in 2005 for the trial, 2009 for the memorial where he says he was very shaky and also returned in 2010.

© hannah kozak

Wiedjai from the Netherlands

I spoke to Nora from Budapest, Hungary. “This is my 1st time here.” she told me.

© hannah kozak

Nora Pogonyi
Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Over 50 nations are represented on this banner.

© hannah kozak

And the flowers kept arriving!

 © hannah kozak

Tata created all these drawings/paintings.
Michael Jackson fans are uber creative.

Truth4MJ is a project that’s grown through the years thanks to the contributions of loyal Michael Jackson’s supporters committed to spread the truth about him starting from his own words. As he said, “lies run sprints, the truth runs marathons”. We strongly believe the truth about his life, his human nature and that his death will be recognized worldwide in the end.

Jermaine Jackson arrived, greeting the fans with a tremendous amount of care and love with real hugs and handshakes. It took him awhile to get through as he gently took his time speaking to the fans. “Thank you for coming. It’s very tough. I feel like the moment I did when I did the announcement for his passing. You make it easy for me because it’s the love and the support.” He spoke and became emotional, unable to hold back his tears. All the love and support from the fans seems truly important to him.

© hannah kozak

Jermaine Jackson
Forest Lawn
25 June 2015

@ hannah kozak

Jermaine Jackson

© hannah kozak

Jermaine Jackson leaving Forest Lawn

In Michael’s book, Dancing the Dream, he wrote, “People ask me how I make music. I tell them I just step into it. It’s like stepping into a river and joining the flow. Every moment in the river has its song. So, I stay in the moment and listen.” Michael understood that everything in our universe has its own vibratory frequency, and when we raise our own vibration, that brings us closer to experiencing and merging with the highest vibration of all – G-d – the original creativity of the universe. As I continue to walk around the sea of love, I can feel the vibration of what Michael Jackson was telling us for decades: Love and be kind to each other. And that, in part, is why he will not be dethroned.

The simplicity of this note is lovely.

© hannah kozak

Note to MJ

And, I LOVE this drawing of MJ that’s a combination of Michael and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.

© hannah kozak

Michael Jackson as The Little Prince

© hannah kozak

Bad doll from Japanese fans meets the Thriller era dolls

© hannah kozak

Self Portrait – Hannah Kozak

© hannah kozak

One Rose for Michael Jackson,
25 June 2015

Michael Jackson is Remembered and Loved Six Years Later


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,567 other followers

%d bloggers like this: