Photographer Douglas Kirkland crosses us over the finish line for He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard book

Every year in January, I head to Photo LA, and have been doing this since the 90’s. While walking around and looking at the photographs, exhibitions, and books, I was dreaming that one day I would be able to take my lifelong love of books and photography and combine those loves to create books of my numerous and varied projects.

On January 18, 2014, I waited in line with dozens of people, who were waiting to get a signed copy of Douglas Kirkland’s December 16, 2013 recently released book, “A Life in Pictures : The Douglas Kirkland Monograph”. For all my photography friends, you know who Douglas is. For others, you may not know his name but you know his photographs. Yes, the iconic photograph of Marilyn Monroe draped only in a white sheet, was created by Douglas as Marilyn drank Dom Perignon and listened to Frank Sinatra. Not to mention many classic photographs such as Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Mitchum, Dustin Hoffman, Judy Garland with a tear rolling down her cheek, Audrey Hepburn smiling looking as if she has a secret, Ann Margaret on a motorcycle and Cher on roller skates in 1979. This legendary photographer’s book is a manifesto of his whole career. It’s his journey from a passionate teenager in Canada taking photographs with his box camera, and following his dreams to the twenty something photojournalist who worked for Life and Look magazine and had the guts to to ask Elizabeth Taylor, who was the world’s leading lady actress, if he could photograph her. He was the only photographer invited to the 1983 Michael Jackson Thriller shoot.

Douglas’s story is about the passion of a young man, the drive, dedication and hard work of following your dreams. Even though he heard comments like “Doug, I think it’s time you should start settling down and forget all this New York photography stuff”, he listened to his heart not family and friends. He is a living legend but bigger than the legend is his heart of gold.

As I made my way to the table where he was sitting, I told him about the project I was working on for 5 years. He had written in his book that a friend of his had told him that if you wanted to contact someone that you really respected , you should write a series of very earnest letters expressing your feelings for their work and your desire to meet them and that you would get through to them. Douglas wrote to Irving Penn three times before he received a response. He ended up with a job working for Mr. Penn.

After Douglas signed my book, I handed him my 1961 Rolleiflex 2.8F and asked him to make a photo of me. Then, I asked if he would look at my project on my mother who has brain damage from domestic violence, which was called “Forgiveness and Compassion” at the time. I asked him if he could help me. He handed me his business card and told me to write to him. I wrote him an earnest, heartfelt letter and six months later I was in his Hollywood Hills home along with his beautiful wife, Francoise. On his coffee table and book shelves was the biggest photography book collections I had ever seen. He spent two hours carefully looking at all my porfolios I had brought and told me when he saw “Forgiveness and Compassion”, “when you make a book on this project, I will buy one.”

Douglas helped cement my belief that you have to ask for what you want. I wrote to him three times about my Kickstarter campaign. After writing to him two times in the last month, I knew I hadn’t heard from him because he was working and it turns out him and his wife were in Rome for the premiere of his documentary “That Click” the night before!

At 3:13am, I received an email from Francoise telling me “I think you have reached your goal, Greetings from Rome. We are at the film festival presenting the documentary about Douglas “That Click” premiered last night, was a triumph.” Douglas and Francoise had generously backed my project, pushing it to its goal!

Not only did I begin photographing nearly 5 decades ago, but I have succeeded in my first Kickstarter backing successfully. I am partnering with FotoEvidence, who gave me the honor of a finalist award in the first FotoEvidence W (Women) Award. FotoEvidence is a publishing house that creates photo books to draw attention to human rights violations, and assaults on human dignity wherever they may occur. As a side note, my book editor,Régina Monfort, worked for Irving Penn for seven years.

By photographing my mother for ten years, I laid the ghost. It feels like poetry that Douglas Kirkland, the man who succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in his dream of being a photographer, and taught me to keep trying and never give up, brought my Kickstarter to the finish line with a generous backing. This story is for all the dreamers. Keep going and the longer it takes, it just means the project isn’t ready yet. Don’t give up your dreams, ever. Being able to tell my mother’s story feels as if a weight is lifted from my soul. I’ve been carrying this around since I was nine years old. One of my writing teachers, Joyce Maynard taught me to “write like you’re an orphan.” That’s one of the aims of this book, to tell the truth.

Photograph of Hannah Kozak at Photo LA, January 18, 2014 created by Douglas Kirkland with Rolleiflex 2.8F and expired Kodak Portra 400 film.

Here is the iconic photograph that Douglas Kirkland made of Marilyn Monroe in 1961, a year before her death.

Here is the first set up at the shoot with Marilyn Monroe. I always loved this photograph of Douglas. It shows the spectacular and brilliant angle he used to photograph Marilyn Monroe.

Raquel Welch, 1969 © Douglas Kirkland

Douglas Kirkland spent a month touring with Judy Garland & created this iconic photo in 1961.

Douglas met Audrey Hepburn when she was nearly 40. This famous photo is a promotional still for her 1966 heist movie “How To Steal A Million” by Douglas Kirkland, Paris 1965

The exceptional lenticular cover design of the Douglas Kirkland “Michael Jackson: The Making of Thriller” book

I love what Douglas captured here as Michael is behind the scenes during the making of “Thriller

Michael Jackson behind the scenes during the making of “Thriller”

Douglas creates magic moments during the making of “Thriller”

Michael Jackson with make-up artist, Rick Baker.

Insert showing autograph from Douglas Kirkland on his “A Life In Pictures” book:

The inscription Douglas wrote on January 14, 2014 at Photo LA. Even his handwriting is poetic.

If you want to study one of the great masters of photography, this is a great book to do so. Douglas Kirkland’s 7 pound masterpiece: “A Life in Pictures”

Michael Jackson: The Making of “Thriller” 4 days/1983

Douglas Kirkland’s written words to me on his “Michael Jackson: The Making of Thriller 4 days/1983” book with inscription Douglas Kirkland wrote at his home in the Hollywood Hills – 19 June 2014

Love the unusual composition Kirkland choose to make the photograph of me.

Mr. Kirkland signing my copy of his incredible book.

Douglas Kirkland poses for me at Photo LA.

About hannahkozak

I am passionate about photography & have been making photos since I was a little girl. I have been a stunt woman for twenty five years. I have a passion for exploration, discovery, and escape. I dream of every place I seek to travel to. A recovering adrenaline junkie, I seek authenticity in everyday experiences. I love Kundalini Yoga,travel, books,writing and authentic, real experiences and people. I brake for squirrels. Que le vaya bien! View all posts by hannahkozak

7 responses to “Photographer Douglas Kirkland crosses us over the finish line for He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard book

  • Floyd

    That is truly an amazing outcome. It goes to show that spirit joins us where intention and action meet. You did the work and wrote the letters, and it’s only fitting that Kirkland was the one to put the project over the top. What a great USM story – definitely worth sharing with Ron & Mary when you show them the book. L&L, Floyd

    • hannahkozak

      It truly was an over the top outcome. Between having lunch with Ron and Mary 11 years after graduation from USM, and all the work, what an amazing surprise ending! I’m going to share this with them now! Thank you for your support and backing, Floyd. Sending love, my USM brother.
      hannah

  • mjblisss

    Absolutely beautiful and inspirational story. Congratulations Hannah! Thank you so much for sharing this incredible experience and the beautiful pictures.

  • Jolanta Czajerek

    This is an amazing story Hannah, I’m very happy that your project is heading towards a happy ending. D. Kirkland saw in you passion, but also undeniable talent, and knows his stuff.
    I am glad that you will be able to fulfill this many-year dream and this time you have the chance to write a dedication to Mr. Kirkland 🙂

    • hannahkozak

      Dear Jolanta, Creating the book will be the fulfillment of a 10 year project and dream of publishing a book on my mother’s story. I’m grateful for Douglas Kirkland and his beautiful wife, Francoise, who believed in my project and kept their word to me, 5 years later! There have been many angels on this journey and the Kirklands are 2 of those angels.

  • georgie scarpato

    I love this, Hannah…..I’m so happy and excited for you. So happy, so proud!! You deserve this! Your beautiful Mommy deserves this! I’m grateful to Mr. Kirkland and his wife! I know the road ahead will be long and stressful, but so worth it when you reach the end. Much love and many hugs….always!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: