Category Archives: photography

Michael Jackson’s Love continues 9 Years Later

© hannah kozak

Queenie – Hong Kong banner

© hannah kozak

One Rose for MJ

June 25, 2009 – I was a stuntwoman hired to work on Iron Man 2. As I drove on the 101 Freeway in the late afternoon, heading to the location in downtown Los Angeles, I couldn’t stop thinking about Michael and wrap my head around the fact that he was gone.  The news of his death had been announced only a few hours prior, and a part of me refused to believe it. When I met the stunt coordinator, I casually mentioned it, not wanting to seem like a fanatic.  Boy, how I would let go of that need years later.  The scene called for three stuntwomen to be running away from gigantic robots. One of the stuntmen landed on me and, as I would find out days later, broke a few of my ribs. I couldn’t breathe but I got up and did the shot again.  For some reason, getting hurt always made me go inside and ponder.

© hannah kozak

Angel of Light card “Smile” – Michael’s favorite song

After researching, writing, blogging and sharing my photos with Michael Jackson fans around the world for nine years, I grew to not care what people thought about my “obsession” with Michael. Actually, I began to believe that if you tell me what you think about Michael, I will tell you who you are.  Thus, began my search for the truth about who Michael Jackson was.

This year, like annual clockwork, the media has begun the totally baseless smear stories one month before the anniversary of Michael’s passing.  The medialoid  (mainstream media infected by tabloid journalism) loves to feed a constant diet of trash and lies about Michael. And his fans begin to defend him, as always, standing firmly for the truth and defending his legacy.  I look forward to the day when Michael’s volunteer work for children trends instead of the lies.  In the meantime, I continue my work on the anniversary of his passing to remind the world who he was, an innocent humanitarian.

© hannah kozak

King of Pop – from Romania

Why did the media begin a witch hunt against Michael as soon as he started breaking every musical record? First of all, Michael was the archetypal misunderstood artist, committed to his art and his creative vision even though he was being judged.

© hannah kozak

Banner from Queenie, Jessica and May – Hong Kong

Did you know that Michael Jackson was personally responsible for cutting the number of starving people on this planet in half back in the 1990’s? The media didn’t report that.

Michael Jackson was the personification of love.  What do we do with someone whose heart is that big?

Tall Poppy Syndrome is “a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down or criticized because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.” That is what happened to Michael Jackson the moment he started to break every music record ever made. A simple walk through Twitter for example, will  show example after example of people who never even knew him or read anything valuable about him trashing him. Hence, my belief of “tell me what you think of Michael Jackson and I will tell you who you are”. Are you judgmental? Accepting of someone who did not fit in any of the neat little boxes that society loves to place on people? Do you see his giant, loving heart that gave to strangers and visited sick and dying children before and after his concerts? A man who would donate millions of dollars from touring to various children’s causes? Is that what you see?  Or do you believe the lies that the media feeds you?

A Jewish proverb says, Do not be wise in words, be wise in deeds.Michael Jackson was wise in deeds.  Other-centered does not even come close to describing his character.  Listed in the 2000 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for “Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star”, he supported 39 charities and gave away $500 million in his lifetime.  Even in his death his earnings are still going to charity, as specified in his will.

© hannah kozak

Marcela – Argentina

As I walk around Forest Lawn Glendale, I focus on the love that I see for Michael Jackson and I feel my heart chakra stirring. I see handmade cards so intricate, delicate and beautiful that my heart is moved to tears. I have been in actual relationships and not had such cards made for me.

Here is Robyn Starkland who tirelessly organizes One Rose for Michael Jackson, year after year. This year, there are 8,047 roses purchased by fans around the globe. On June 26, the roses are donated to various charities around Los Angeles.

© hannah kozak

Robyn Starkland – Organizer of One Rose for Michael Jackson

I met Sarah, who flew 5 hours to Auckland and 12 hours to Los Angeles, from South Australia. This was her first visit to Forest Lawn. She said when Michael died “I was overwhelmed with tears and I didn’t know why. I had dreams where he smiled, picked me up and spun me around.

© hannah kozak

Sarah – South Australia

Every year I see artwork by an artist named Siren. This year I actually met and spoke to her. Siren is from Canada and did not start painting until years after Michael died. Her drawing began two years after Michael passed but she did not paint until 2014. She said “I credit Michael with all of it, all my creativity. That’s my connection to him, the relationship, my spirituality.”

© hannah kozak

Paintings by Siren from Canada.

Here are Rieko Ishii, Miyuki Amano, Yoko Abe and Yuki Otsuki, who came together from Japan. They brought this glorious angel winged, red rose tribute for Michael.

© hannah kozak

Left to right: Rieko Ishii, Miyuki Amano, Yoko Abe, Yuki Otsuki from Japan with their winged angel rose arrangement.

Here are Queenie Las, May Cheng and Jessica Kwok from Hong Kong. They layed out pictures for hours on Saturday but everything was gone on Sunday.

Yasuyo Kaneko was sitting with an umbrella and her 2 little MJ dolls, complete with miniature flowers. I found a framed photo I loved, which turned out to be hand made by her.

People like Yasuyo are why I come to Forest Lawn Glendale every years on the anniversary of MJ’s passing.

Yasuyo is kind, gentle, soft-spoke and other centered. She created a delicate wooden frame with MJ’s favorite flowers, and was part of the team that arranged the giant arrangement of red roses, and angel wings in gold.

© hannah kozak

i love the details of the miniature flowers on this hand made frame by Yasuyo Kaneko from Yokohama, Japan.

© hannah kozak

Yasuyo Kaneko – Yokohama, Japan

© hannah kozak

Queenie Lau, May Cheng, Jessica Kwok from Hong Kong.

 

Michael Jackson didn’t just love his own children: he loved all children.  Perhaps that’s why he was judged so harshly by people who did not know him.  In the end, it’s not just his music, dancing and videos that bring people from all corners of the world to Forest Lawn Glendale to deliver their sweet, homemade gifts. It’s because Michael Jackson was the personification of love and what we need now, more than ever, is love.

© hannah kozak

I love this delicate, hand made doll from one of the Japanese fans!

 © hannah kozak

Painting by Siren – Self Portrait

© hannah kozak

I love the simplicity of the hands in glitter.

© hannah kozak

Arrangement from fans in Iran.

© hannah kozak

Letter from fan in Iran

© hannah kozak

Banner from fans in Ireland

© hannah kozak

Letter from fan in China – page 2

© hannah kozak

Letter from fan in China

© hannah kozak

Messages of Love

© hannah kozak

Musical symbol arrangement

© hannah kozak

We Love You, Michael arrangement.

© hannah kozak

Emone Tsang from Hong Kong

@ hannah kozak

Miranda – Hong Kong

© hannah kozak

Hong Kong banner

© hannah kozak

Eliza and Pat

© hannah kozak

May Cheng – Hong Kong

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The Magic of Oaxaca, Mexico

The Magic of Oaxaca, Mexico

From the moment my plane landed in the tiny airport of Oaxaca, I knew I was in for an adventure. Oaxaca is a magical concoction of sights, smells, and sounds. With a combination of ancient and modern sites, the small city is full of fantastic restaurants and can easily be covered by foot.

Its official name, Oaxaca de Juárez, embodies the bundle of contrasts that is modern Mexico. Oaxaca has it all: a lovely colonial city, the ruins of Mitla, craft and food markets, churches, forest covered mountains, and my favorite place of all—Monte Albán.

© hannah kozak

Monte Albán, Mexico

Built by the Zapotecs, the temples of Monte Albán are perched atop a large mesa. Seeing the massive ancient metropolis is a mystical and spiritual experience. Monte Albán is one of the most important ruins in Mexico. To get a sense of its importance, it is said that 30,000 Zapotecs lived in Monte Albán at one time.

© hannah kozak

Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico

The Zapotec capital of Monte Albán overlooks Oaxaca and the view is incredible.

© hannah kozak

View of Oaxaca, Mexico from Monte Albán.

I find myself with many questions about Monte Alban because only 10 percent of the site has been uncovered. Did the Zapotecs abandon the city gradually or suddenly? It was founded toward the end of the Middle Formative period around 500 BC and by 1000 AD it was empty. What was it like living in Monte Alban?

For this trip I used my Rolleiflex 2.8F and my Fujifilm X-T2 along with the Fujifilm 16-55mm 2.8 lens.

When I travel, I use my camera to get to know people. I’ll approach total strangers and ask if I may make a photo of them. With that one question, we establish a sort of trust. If I am shooting digitally, I will show them the photo on playback and I usually get big smiles in response.

© hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market in Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market in Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market in Oaxaca, Mexico

 © hannah kozak

Couple in their vegetable and fruit stand in Teotitlan Market – Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market in Oaxaca, Mexico

 © hannah kozak

Children in Tlacolula Market – Oaxaca, Mexico

I like to write down their address and sometimes surprise them with the photo in the mail a month or two later. Sharing my photography is important to me, and I love being able to give the gift of a portrait.

© hannah kozak

Frutas y Verduras – Teotitlan Market Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Eugenia Zoila Hernande at La Olla Restaurant making corn tortillas – Oaxaca, Mexico

©hannah kozak

Man selling on street in Oaxaca, Mexico

Whether I’m taking pictures or not, traveling through Mexico is always a unique experience. From the Spanish language (la lengua), to the food (la comida), people (la gente), and culture (la cultura). There is a lot of fear-based advice about traveling to various states of Mexico coming from the U.S. that I have never paid attention to. I find all the fear propaganda unwarranted.

I have met beautiful people around the world in my travels, warm kind hearted strangers especially in Mexico. Their warmth and kindness shines through where I meet them in every market, street corner, restaurant, and ancient site.

 © hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market – Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman in Teotitlan Market – Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman – Teotitlan Market

© hannah kozak

Woman – Teotitlan Market in Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Woman – Teotitlan Market – Oaxaca, Mexico

Mexico gifted me with enriching, heart breaking, beautiful sights and though it left me tired, I felt new life running through my veins.

© hannah kozak

Skeletons – Oaxaca, Mexico

© hannah kozak

Self Portrait – Oaxaca Cemetery

The Magic of Oaxaca, Mexico


Reconciling the Holidays 2016

Reconciling the Holidays 2016

Whether one celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah or any other festive holiday, this time of year brings up emotions. As my father left his physical body on Christmas, it’s a particularly reflective time for me. Whether we are with family or friends exchanging gifts or having meals together, the holidays are meant to be a time for celebration.

As I am driving south on the 101 to work, I notice an increase in the amount of homeless living on the side of the freeway than four years ago, when my work required increased time spent driving to downtown Los Angeles. I see a makeshift toilet, battered and ripped tents & frayed blankets next to people’s “homes” and I can’t help but wonder what it must feel like to be living in the rain, during the holiday season, with no home.

© hannah kozak

San Pedro Street

© hannah kozak

She was walking up and down San Pedro Street in the pouring rain.

We are shooting nights downtown and the pounding of the rain begins just as all the gear needs to start the move to the filming location from the base camp. I find the rain magical but can’t help but think of the people on the streets. In the morning after “wrap” has been called, when the sun has risen and I can wander alone, I hang my camera on my left shoulder, as I have been doing since I was 10 years old. I hang a Trader Joes bag filled with food on my right shoulder as I walk with my orange umbrella. I begin to walk the streets around San Pedro near 10th street, as I have to stay close to the location.

I meet Jeffrey who tells me “I’m doing the best I can” and “It is what it is” and manages a genuine smile. I offer him some food and he is so very grateful.

© hannah kozak

Jeffrey

Next I stop to speak to Cheryl, a woman pushing a shopping cart down 11th Street. She tells me “my husband beat me up.” And she has lupus and cancer. When she shares with me that she was in a relationship where she was abused, I immediately open up and tell her my mother was too. “I’m doing my own thing” she says and asks me if I have any chocolate. “I knew someone would want chocolate” I think to myself and reaching into my bag, I find the chocolate bar I added to my stash and hand it to her.

© hannah kozak

Cheryl

I speak to Ernestine, who has four children: Tamisha, Latary, Laterrier, & Tomika. It’s challenging to understand everything she is saying but she thanks me for the food as well.

© hannah kozak

Ernestine

There is so much suffering in the world and I am pondering how to reconcile that some of us live in abundance with magic all around. Yet how do we remain grateful and happy, knowing people are in pain or even anguish? People right near by. People that I see sleeping on & walking down 7th Street as the van shuttles crew members from base camp to set.

It’s a corrosive attitude to think of the homeless as others. The only thing I can do at this very moment is to take action and hand out food to the different people I meet as I walk along the streets, as the rain is coming down heavy on all of us. “Feed each other” – Yogi Bhajan, master of Kundalini yoga and my spiritual teacher, taught us. There is a spiritual imperative in my belief system that says help others. So, that I do. When I’m home in bed later that evening, I feel blessed and content that I could help a few people today during my work day.

@ hannah kozak

Downtown Los Angeles.

Reconciling the Holidays 2016


4th edition of the Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography – Berlin Foto Biennale 2016

4th Edition of Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary Photography

Throughout October 2016 Berlin welcomes once again the largest German festival for photography–the 7th European Month of Photography. The Grand opening of the 4th Biennial is at the elegant Palazzo Italia, situated in the historic heart of of Berlin as Associated Partner of the EMOP Berlin the first edition of the Berlin Foto Biennale.

© hannah kozak

Olivia always finds her way!


I have the honor of being one of the finalists in the 7th Edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Female Photographers in the Nude and Figure category. One of my photos from my Pain and Loneliness series was chosen to be on exhibit.

@ hannah kozak

Pain and Loneliness 33

I’m also honored to be included in the special section about the Holocaust and Second Generation with works by Aliza Augustine, Hannah Kozak, Sebastian Holzknecht, Beth Bursting, Vienne Rea and Quyen Pfeiffer. I was also given the honor of 1st prize documentary photo from the series He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard and 1st prize children’s category. Show opened on October 6, 2016 and will run through October 30.

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Sobibor Triptych
by hannah kozak.

Five of my images from my ongoing series–He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard were finalists in the 8th Edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award.

@ hannah kozak

He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

@ hannah kozak

He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

@ hannah kozak

He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

@ hannah kozak

He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

© hannah kozak

He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

Here are some other photographer’s works from the Binnial 2016.

© hannah kozak

Marea Reed, Australia
Mareareed.com
Cooling the Blood, 2014

Mareareed.com

© hannah kozak

Boguslaw Maslak,
bobbyart.com
United Kingdom
Spirit of Ganges, 2013

Bobbyart.com

© hannah kozak

Isabel Karl-Herunter
Austria
Back to Paradise, 2014

© hannah kozak

Marilyn Maxwell,
United States
MarilynMaxwellphoto.com
Long Reach, 2014, Tanzania

Marilynmaxwellphoto.com

© hannah kozak

Chris Scavotto

© hannah kozak

Aline Smithson,
Alinesmithson.com
Lucy in Turquoise, 2013

Alinesmithson.com

© hannah kozak

Sebastian Holzknecht,
sebastianholzknecht.com
Jacek, from the series “Not Guilty”

sebastianholzknecht.com

© hannah kozak

Andrea Star Reese,
United States
Andreastarreese.com
Disorder 01, 2010

andreastarreese.com

©hannah kozak

Steve McCurry,
Walking on High Ground, Bangladesh, 1983

© hannah kozak

Karmen Corak, Italy
CL1, 2014, Spain

https://www.facebook.com/karmen.corak

4th Edition of Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary Photography


Warsaw in Winter part two

Warsaw in Winter part two

Photography is a meditation for me. After spending time working on set surrounded by a crew of nearly one hundred people twelve hours a day, for months, I find that photography allows me quiet to recharge my soul. I cannot tidy up my father’s past: I am in Poland to continue my project on the eight forced labor camps he was in. But, before I begin my work, I allow myself to wander about Warsaw; one of my favorite cities in Europe.

© hannah kozak

Old Town in Warsaw, Poland
1/280 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800 23.4mm

© hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 16mm,
1/280 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 16 mm
1/125 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 16mm
1/125 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 16mm
1/450 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 16mm
1/450 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 17mm
1/600 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

Fuji X-T1, 35.3 mm 1/450 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

Fuji X-T1, 35.3 mm
1/450 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

The oldest part of Warsaw is Old Town; bounded by the bank of the Vistula river along with Grodzka, Mostowa, and Podwale Streets. I made these photos while wandering through the heart of the area which is Old Town Market Place. From the surrounding streets I saw medieval architecture while the area is full of restaurants, cafes and shops. And, wherever I travel, I plan on visiting UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites; and Warsaw is one of them. More than 85% of Old Town was deliberately destroyed by Nazi troops during the war. Warsaw is a near-total reconstruction of a span of history from the 13th to the 20th century. I love watching people while walking around.

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 17.6 mm
1/250 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 6400

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 24.2mm
1/15 sec @ f 6.4, ISO 400

The Holocaust committed by the Nazis turned this country, where most of the European Jews used to live and where their culture used to flourish, into a massive grave. This is why initiatives to revive Jewish culture in Poland is so important.

Marek Belka

Warsaw in Winter part two


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


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