Tag Archives: hannah kozak

Celebrating Love on Michael Jackson’s 62 Birthday

The truth is I wasn’t going to blog on the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s 62nd birthday this year.  Not only have we been in a heat wave in Los Angeles but I have been trying to manage with my mother locked down in a nursing facility, left brain damaged from her second husband’s abuse. For the past six months, she has not been allowed visitors but I have been given permission to see her from a gate for 25 minutes, in the sun, with traffic whizzing by, two times a week. The isolation is getting to her as she does not understand why she has no visitors coming inside even though I have tried to explain the situation to her.  She asks me to “come inside”, “let’s go” “vamanos” and “open the gate.” Finding a perfectly ripe avocado made me happy, because it’s the only food they allow me to bring her.

The medical director of the facility told me “We need your voice, don’t back down” so I haven’t but it’s exhausting.  Then, to make matters worse, I was told that the facility working with the Dept. of Health would open up a safe, social distanced arrangement where family can visit without endangering the residents, staff or visitors at the end of August. There were 5 new cases in a building in the same campus two weeks ago, so the residents have been locked down once again.

In place of boredom, I offer my mother spontaneity. In place of loneliness, I offer companionship. Instead of feeling helpless, being able to visit with my mother gave me the opportunity to take care of another human being.  I look forward to the day that will we set them free from this tyranny.

As I pulled into Forest Lawn Glendale, I was wondering if Michael would be remembered this year as more people tend to visit on the anniversary of his death, rather than his birthday.  As I saw the intricate, creative cards and the stunning arrangement of flowers, I knew I had to share these photographs with his fans so here I am again.

Michael Lutkes originally from Dusseldorf, now living in Los Angeles, created this painting. 

Mountains of flowers for Michael.

From Russia – We Just Can’t Stop Loving You

Flowers from Italian fans

The fans in Denmark designed this Neverland boat. It was stunning to see the details such as the sail with tiny sunflowers.

Someone created a birthday cupcake extravaganza. The creativity of Michael Jackson fans never fails to astound me.

This stand up from the History era was lovely.

More stunning flowers from Italy. 

YouTube: German in Venice

Look at the tiny ladybug details!

Inner card

Isabelle Vicente from France

The beauty of Siren’s card always capture me, year after year.

Back side of Siren’s card. Siren started painting after Michael died. Her art and writing are from her heart.

Card made by Carol H.

The care, passion, creativity of these cards are so healing to see in person.

oh, so pretty!

Helena Ong – Malaysia

Messages of love to Michael

My heart is filled with sorrow because of my mother’s isolation and if I can bring a smile to someone in the world, sharing the love I am witness to at Forest Lawn, then I have accomplished something meaningful today. No one understood this better than Michael Jackson, whose genuine love and caring for humanity was part of why he touched so many hearts around the globe. Michael Jackson was the embodiment of love, kindness, caring and the most creative soul to ever walk this planet.

Seeing my friends Gloria Lopez and Marty Theis brought so much warmth to my hurting heart.

Finally, last but not least, the love between Gloria and her fiancé, is so heart affirming.

Gloria and Eric

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 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.

Michael Jackson – The King of Light and Love 10 Years Later

Billie Jean, Beat It, Thriller Dolls.

Entrance to Forest Lawn – Glendale.

Forest Lawn Glendale.

June 25, 2009.  I heard the news that Michael Jackson had died as I was driving from the San Fernando Valley to Downtown Los Angeles for work. I had been hired as a stunt person to work in a scene on Iron Man 2.  At that point, I had been a stunt woman for 25 years.  As I drove, I tried to make sense of what I had heard.  Michael Jackson dead? I had been a fan since I was ten years old and his music was the soundtrack to my life.

The scene in the film called for myself and two other stunt women to run away from the giant robots that were chasing the pedestrians.  The director yelled “Action!”  As we ran, one of the stuntmen landed squarely on top of me on the stairs.  The wind was knocked out of me immediately and it became hard for me to breathe. We set up for another take and I realized something was wrong.  I didn’t say anything to the stunt coordinator as we did another take but I would find out days later that I had broken ribs.

That injury began a journey of researching, writing, watching YouTube videos, reading books and finding out who the real Michael Jackson was, not the lies the media tried to force feed us on a steady diet.  I discovered what I had known since I was ten years old. Michael was a special soul with higher consciousness who was truly gifted with a beautiful heart. A heart that made him other centered, almost to a fault. Everyone loves their own children but Michael loved all children.  He loved children in a godly, innocent way and would eventually be crucified for it.

There is no place in American culture that allows for a grown man to have a home which he named Neverland Ranch.  A 2500 acre escape from the masses always pulling on him, literally and figuratively.  In a February 17, 1983 Rolling Stone Magazine interview he said it hurt being pulled on. “Being mobbed hurts. You feel like you’re spaghetti among thousands of hands. They’re just ripping you and pulling your hair. And you feel that any moment you’re gonna just break.” Some may choose to judge him because he preferred climbing trees to playing football, and the company of children to adults who always wanted something from him. He gave so much. All he wanted was to spread love and peace, especially to those who had very little.

Michael delighted in elementary things like riding roller coasters with children, water fights with over-sized squirt guns, and animals that loved unconditionally.  This simple love of life caused those with darkness and blackness in their hearts to judge him. For those who didn’t feel love in our sometimes loveless world, he showed us not to be scared to love. When you told him you loved him, he didn’t say, “love you” or “love ya”. He always said “I love you more.”

Flowers from MJJ Fan Club – Japan.

On the tenth anniversary of Michael’s passing, I am once again, like every year before, moved to tears by the outpouring of handmade cards, teddy bears, sunflowers, giant arrangements of flowers and fans I haven’t met and even more that I have, from all around the globe.

Aki Nao, Miyuki – from Japan.

Flowers from Russia.

Flowers from Denmark.


Flowers from Italy.

French & Belgian fans.

Flowers from Iran.


Spanish & English – Facts Don’t Lie – People Do.

Israel Banners.

Have You Seen My Childhood?

Flowers from China

Aki, Nao, Miyuki – Japan

Miyuki – with her handmade doll – Japan

Hand made quilt from Japan

Quilt insert

Quilt Insert – Yukiko

Map from fan -Japan

Angela – 19 year old who came with her cousin Ella, 5 years old. They both admire MJ. He is their biggest inspiration. He’s inspired Angela in so many ways from music, singing, arts to being a humanitarian and making a difference. Ella wishes to do the same in the future.

Ella reminded me of my cousin Vered when she was 5 years old. I gifted her with one of my MJ dolls. She loved it immediately.

Rieko Iwanaga spotted me and asked if I remembered her from 2016. Yes! I can never forget her smile!

Dan Lu, Luring Lei from China. Dan studies at USC – Global Communications. She shared with me she has wanted to make her own documentary on the truth about Michael for 10 years.

Dan Lu – from China.
“I have loved Michael since I was 10 years old.”

Fans from Russia.

These dolls from Japan were fabulous.

Siren and Brenda created this.

From Japan.

Blood on the Dance Floor

From Iran.

One Rose for Michael Jackson has 18,757 red and white long stem roses for him this year.  They blanket him, as he cared for others around the world with his humanitarian efforts.

Marcela Torres, Liz Johnson – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Catherine Van Tighem,  Robyn Starkland

Brenda Jenkyns from Canada, Lidia originally from Russia.

18,757 roses for Michael Jackson.

Forest Lawn Glendale in a blanket of roses for Michael Jackson.

What a treat to meet Liz Johnson, who flew from Buenos Aires, Argentina to pay her respects to Michael. She was here one other time in 2014.  We spoke about how Michael was loved around the world and yet I felt the United States judged him harshly and tried to imprison him even though both allegations were proven to be blackmail.  She told me “Nadie es propheta en su tierra.” “A prophet is never known/accepted in his hometown. “

We both agreed Michael’s death was a spiritual awakening which caused millions of people around the world to speak the same language, the language of love. I met Marty Theis who, with his beautiful smile said “We are here to change the world.” I also met Jordan, who grew up in China and now lives in New York. Jordan shared with me that she discovered Michael when she was three years old.  The first false allegations in 1993 made her decide to become a lawyer. “He died the day I graduated college. I was going to come and meet him.” she said.

Liz Johnson – Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainer this world has ever seen. The gathering at Forest Lawn shows that having a kind heart and caring about others, is never, ever out of style.In this selfie obsessed, look-at-me-culture, now, more than ever, Michael’s care for humanity was both a breath of fresh air and testament to his heart and it is why he will always be remembered.  This isn’t just fan worship, it’s people resonating with L.O.V.E and higher consciousness.  Michael was tuned into the suffering of others. Even in his death, his will stipulated that part of his earnings should go to charities for children.

Michael’s consciousness was elevated and that’s what we tuned into and made him loved, more than anything. Darkness falls across the land but the love Michael Jackson spread around the world is testament to the power of caring about someone else, being kind, generous, gracious, loving, heart centered, and never forgetting the endless possibilities of grace available to us as human beings. Michael lived his life as a masterpiece, bringing the world together as one.

Michael Jackson Bad board signed by fans.

I love this card from Patricia Alvarado A from La Paz, Bolivia.
Mi dulce morenito:
Se cumplen 10 años de tu partida al cielo…Pero siempre serás uno de mis ejemplos a seguir, Gracias por tu música maravillosa, tu dulce voz, tus piecitos mágicos y tu corazón de oro. I love you more!!

Another board signed with photo from the Bad era.

Card from Jan Carlson

Look at the stunning artwork created by Siren.

Card from Gee – Kent, England.

I set up my MJ Thriller doll next to this card from Myrna – from Mexico.

The creativity of Michael Jackson fans never fails to surprise me.

Card from Carol Hodges

Card from Robert L’ Hirondelle.

Card from Marjolein.

Look at this beautiful sketching from Elin Fogstad – Norway

The beauty of the words from Sissa Margarita – Mexico.

Card from Loli – España.

Card from Josee Grimard from Montreal, Canada.

Card from Isabelle Vicente from France.

Card from Helena One – Malaysia.

Card from Agnes Morbihan – France.

Here is Siren, whose artwork is soulful and beautiful. Siren, along with Brenda, are the two MJ fans that flew to Sundance this year to be in support of Michael.

From Fanny Chow – Hong Kong

One of the fans left this SuperBear and hand written note for Michael.

Grace from China.

This note from Aki made me tear up.

I’m keeping her name private. She moved me to tears.

I will end my blog with a Self Portrait w/Siren’s beautiful art. Siren creates from her heart and I have always loved her art, even before I knew who she was.

Untethered in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

© hannah kozak

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala


© hannah kozak

Self Portrait – Lake Atitlan, Guatemala @ Hotel Posada del Angel

Feeling the need to recharge myself and go within, I decided to head to Guatemala.  It’s a place that connects me to my family of origin as my mother is from Guatemala, to the indigenous Mayan people and to the Spanish language that I love. I choose Lake Atitlan and made my decision to try Yoga Forest for the first time.  After a quick stop in Guatemala City’s La Aurora airport, I made my way to the colonial city of Antigua.

Antigua’s churches remind me of wonderfully decorated wedding cakes, with white details on a pastel yellow background. Wandering on the cobblestone streets I passed colorful, colonial churches, crumbling ruins, and terra cotta roofs with red and orange bougainvillea trailing down the sides of walls. My first day and night were spent at the luxurious, intimate boutique Hotel Posada del Angel in Antigua on a quiet cobblestone street, where every detail has been curated by local connoisseurs who want to share Antigua’s Maya and Spanish heritages.  Even the little soaps are designed by a local alchemist who created a signature scent called “Semana Santa” from frankincense, orange, myrrh, clove and cinnamon.  Raw honey comes from San Cristobal el Alto, coconut oil from Belize, palm oil and cocoa butter from Guatemala.

© hannah kozak

Hotel Posada del Angel



© hannah kozak

Hotel Posada del Angel

© hannah kozak

Hotel Posada del Angel –

© hannah kozak

This woman was selling the typical Guatemalan dolls that look like the ones my mother had as a little girl so I bought one from her. Her face is wonderful.

© hannah kozak

Three brothers – Antigua, Guatemala.

© hannah kozak

Man in Antigua, Guatemala speaking of his beliefs in a higher power.


I headed out on the Carretera Panamericana also known as Centroamérica 1 – the Panamerican Highwayto Lake Atitlan.  A three hour drive on a collective brought me to Lake Panachajel, where I hopped on a boat (lancha) to San Marcos La Laguna, my peaceful, spiritual spot to escape the world.


© hannah kozak

Local Mayan woman – San Marcos La Laguna – Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.


© hannah kozak

Two sisters – San Marcos La Laguna – Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.




© hannah kozak

Local Mayan woman heading down the route from The Yoga Forest


Lago de Atitlan is one of the most inspiring places I have ever visited.  Nestled between three volcanos that loom over the entire landscape, (Volcán Yolimán, Volcán Atitlean and Volcán San Pedro) at an altitude of 5,125 feet, it’s the deepest lake in Central America.  As far as I can see are the deep blue waters that inspired Aldous Huxley to write. Viewing the lake in silence is a true recharge while being surrounded by jogate and mango trees.


A young boy came running up to me, asking if he could carry my bags and I let him because I wanted to give him work. As he lugged my bags to Circles Café, I began to see the familiar signs in San Marcos that I love. Mayan women selling basketfuls of avocados, children running up and down the main path, the smell of tortillas cooking as I passed shady coffee plants near the lakeshore.


It’s a twenty-minute hike up a steep hill to get to Yoga Forest and it’s worth it.   If you are looking to disconnect, here is the place. No wi-fi without a twenty-minute hike back to the pueblo, no electricity in your room and a compost toilet. After living on a kibbutz on Israel, I learned that I needed very little stuff everyday to be content.


Henry Ward Beecher once said, “The first hour is the rudder of the day.”  By committing not to turn on technology first thing in the morning, I received so many benefits including going inside for all my answers.  It required discipline to power off all electronics but the benefits are a much fuller life. At night I lay in bed listening to the sound of the crickets, birds and animals singing to their heart’s content.  Solitude helps us ground to the world around us. Stillness and quiet is required to evaluate our lives and reflect on the messages our intuition sends us.


Off the grid, three local woman lovingly prepared meals with fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh blue tortillas, oatmeal, and pancakes. Even the coconut to sprinkle on our food was freshly grated.  These women embody my belief of “in a world where you can be anything, be kind.”  Even when it’s not the easiest response, it’s always the answer.

© hannah kozak

Maria at The Yoga Forest – San Marcos La Laguna

 © hannah kozak

Magda at The Yoga Forest – San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala.

© hannah kozak

Magda cooking vegetables – The Yoga Forest – San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala.

© hannah kozak

Magda cooking tortillas at The Yoga Forest – San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala.


The view from the top of the mountain of the volcanoes is the best scenery in all of Central America. Jungle foliage and trees were medicine to my heart.  The highland Indians’ colorful clothes that they make themselves, their traditional way of life of farming, their local markets, and the art they create, are all like stepping back in time before all our modern ways.  Add in the Mayan culture and it’s a place that comforts and speaks to my soul.

© hannah kozak

Shooting nearly my entire visit in film made the photos even more magical for me.

One terribly upsetting factor in San Marcos — and all of Central America for that matter —  is all the stray dogs running around.  One morning I saw a dog with a bloodied ear that had flies covering the wound.  I found the only pet food store in San Marcos and waited an hour and a half for a mobile vet that was due to arrive. He never came but I exchanged contact with the girl who worked at the pet store.  When I returned home I contacted her and a great big smile was on my face when she told me that not only had she found the owner of the dog but also that treatment to heal its ear had started.

© hannah kozak

Micaela Pichilla – the girl who helped me find the owner of the dog in San Marcos.

© hannah kozak

Micaela Pichilla at the pet food store she works at in San Marcos La Laguna.

There is so much to do once you’ve settled in at the lake. Exploring other villages by boat, studying Spanish,seeing the weaving and arts created by locals and of course, yoga and meditation.  Not to be missed is Las Pirámides meditation center on the path heading inland from Posada Schumann, where you can have a massage, practice yoga in the morning and early evening, and come to study metaphysical and meditation courses. Lake Atitlan is not a place just to travel to, it’s a place to come and live for an extended period.  After moving to Israel when I was twenty years old, I developed a serious case of wanderlust and I have never stopped exploring. Part of why I travel is to have no regrets at the end of my days, because I will have explored places out of my comfort zone, traveled alone at times and had serious adventures. Not to mention getting out of my comfort zone taps into parts of my brain that create new synapses that stir creative thought. Not everyone has traveled to a place like Lake Atitlan as it requires work and an adventurous spirit to arrive there. It’s a promise that you will never forget the beauty and sounds at the lake, the smell of fresh tortillas being cooked, and will return home with peacefulness from being surrounded by the beauty of not only the lake’s water but also the indigenous people with the warmth and kindness in their hearts.

© hannah kozak

Girl playing near Lake Atitlan.

© hannah kozak

One of the yoga teachers adopted Mala and brought him back home to Berlin.

© hannah kozak

Self Portrait – Lush in San Marcos La Laguna

Survivor: My Father’s Ghosts at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Survivor: My Father’s Ghosts-Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Survivor: My Father’s Ghosts is on view until  August 20, 2018 at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Please come visit the museum at the Grove and see what the museum is going to further Holocaust education.


© hannah kozak

Entrance to Dachau – May 2017

© hannah kozak

Self Portrait – Dachau May 2017

© hannah kozak

Majdanek Concentration Camp – Lublin, Poland May 2015

© hannah kozak

Chelmno Extermination Camp – Chelmno nad Nerem, Poland.

©hannah kozak

Sobibór – The Road to Heaven that the Jews were made to walk to the gas chambers.

Survivor: My Father’s Ghosts-Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

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.

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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.

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Yasuyo Kaneko – Yokohama, Japan

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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!

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Painting by Siren – Self Portrait

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I love the simplicity of the hands in glitter.

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Arrangement from fans in Iran.

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Letter from fan in Iran

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Banner from fans in Ireland

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Letter from fan in China – page 2

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Letter from fan in China

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Messages of Love

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Musical symbol arrangement

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We Love You, Michael arrangement.

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Emone Tsang from Hong Kong

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Miranda – Hong Kong

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Hong Kong banner

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Eliza and Pat

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May Cheng – Hong Kong

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, which makes sense as I run towards any world heritage site.

© 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. Here’s my POV:

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View of Oaxaca, Mexico from Monte Albán.

I find myself with many questions about Monte Albán 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. In other words, a combo of film and digital photography.

When I travel, I use my camera to get to know people. I’ll approach 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

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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

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

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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

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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

Self Portrait plus one

Self Portrait plus one: No trip is complete without a visit to the local cemetery.

The Magic of Oaxaca, Mexico

The Magic of Michael Jackson’s Memorial in Munich, Germany

The Magic of Michael Jackson’s Memorial in Munich, Germany

© hannah kozak

Michael Jackson memorial in Munich, Germany

One thing everyone should know about me is that I am a BIG fan of Michael Jackson. I’ve have been involved with the Michael Jackson community for more than eight years, and I had heard about the memorial dedicated to him in Munich years ago. I like to visit any Michael Jackson memorials and photograph them (with my MJ dolls, of course). On a recent journey to Germany, I made sure I gave myself time to do just that. I was going to be in Munich anyway for a photographic series I was doing on my father, who survived eight Nazi forced labor camps. After hearing about Michael’s memorial, I had to make it part of the trip.

I was heading to the hotel that Michael Jackson stayed at many times: Hotel Bayerischer Hof, which was just one turn and 20 minutes from my motel in the Old Town of Munich. I made a left on Promenadeplatz and the grand hotel with its blue awnings came into view.

© hannah kozak

MJ doll in front of Hotel Bayerische Hof.

Michael stayed in suite 32 in 1997 for the History tour and a year later he returned to take his children Prince and Paris to Circus Krone. In 1999, he had a concert at the Olympic Station, “Michael Jackson and Friends” for the Nelson Mandela charity. Due to a technical problem with part of the set, the central section of ‘The Bridge Of No Return’ collapsed, forcing Michael to climb back on to the stage. Michael continued to perform as planned and was taken to the hospital – after collapsing backstage from the pain of the fall. Did I mention I like Michael jackson?

When I arrived at the hotel, I quickly found photos of Michael Jackson’s smiling face. I sat down on a bench adjacent to the monument and overheard two men speaking about Michael.

“Why did he like being with children” they asked one another.

“Do you want to know?” I answered. They were interested, and encouraged me to explain.

“Imagine everywhere you go in the world, from the time you are eight years old, everyone wants something from you: a hand-shake, a hug, a photo, a kiss, a job or for you to listen to their song. Michael was an innocent, soft-spoken, shy, humble man who loved children because they allowed him to be who he was: a child-like soul.” I said.

The men nodded their heads and understood why Michael connected with children. I’m happy I helped them understand why Michael connected with billions of souls across the globe. It is because he was a loving, gentle, humble and kind man.

© hannah kozak

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, no matter where I am in the world, I am never, ever alone. I’m always able to connect with people in another country about Michael.

I walked to Michael’s memorial each of the four nights I was in Munich. On the last afternoon, I had plans to meet my friend, Nena, whom I met four years ago at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, where Michael is buried, on the anniversary of Michael’s birthday. Nena has been responsible for creating and running the memorial in Munich for the past eight years.

© hannah kozak

Nena Akhtar –

Nena received permission from the mayor of the city and the Bavarian Government to put up photos of Michael on a city monument. Every morning before she goes to work at the two coffee shops she owns she goes to the memorial to add fresh flowers. People send donations for the flowers, candles, pictures and laminating the photos people leave in his honor. It’s a non-profit association to remember Michael Jackson. Fans write to Nena from all over the world and come from France, Italy, from Japan, China, American, Australia, Canada. And many fans from Germany also go to meet Nena and see the memorial.

© hannah kozak

Alternate side of MJ Memorial

I was a Hollywood stuntwoman for twenty-five years, and though it might sound crazy, my life changed the day Michael Jackson died. I was working on Iron Man 2 at the time, and after MJ’s death, I endeavored to discover who Michael Jackson truly was. (Not what the media tried to force feed us.) Thus began my organic, eight-year ongoing series, Searching for Michael Jackson.

These photos are part of my journey to understand the man Michael Jackson was, and also functioned as an outlet for me to meet other MJ fans from around the world. My MJ dolls have been to Warsaw, Krakow, Prague, Budapest, and now Munich, and it’s been a fulfilling, but more importantly, fun, experience to photograph the dolls with Michael Jackson memorials.

My favorite photographs of my MJ doll and photos of Michael are the ones I made in the rain with water drops on my jacket sleeve. I love all the colors from the photographs of Michael on the monument along with the candles, flowers and the backdrop of the hotel.

© hannah kozak

I have visited MJ memorials around the world including the one in Budapest, Hungary and I always find it comforting to visit a memorial dedicated to the King of Pop, clear across the Atlantic ocean, so far from my home in Los Angeles. As I travel alone, seeing all the love for Michael is a real comfort, and helps to soothe my soul.

The Magic of Michael Jackson’s Memorial in Munich, Germany

The Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw, Poland

While I was in Warsaw earlier this spring, I set out to photograph the world’s largest Jewish cemetery. With my Rolleiflex 2.8F, Holga 120N, and Fujifilm X-T2, I knew what I carried in my arsenal exactly what I would need to create the images I wanted to make.

© hannah kozak

I generally photograph my documentary work in black and white because the images appear less distracting and more timeless, but from past experiences in Buenos Aires, Argentina; La Paz, Bolivia; and Berlin, Germany; I knew I loved the look of cemeteries photographed in color. Color photography adds dimension and context to a scene. Green leaves, for example, can show a picture was taken in spring.

© hannah kozak

I prefer to shoot in film because it offers depth and layers to my photos.That being said, I still use my Fujifilm X-T2 for low light situations where I cannot achieve what I need with film. Most of all, I love shooting with film for the same reason I did as a ten-year-old girl: magic.

© hannah kozak

The moment I pushed open the renovated gate on Okopowa Street, I knew I was in for that kind of magic. Founded in 1806, the Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw has 250,000 marked tombs set in 82 acres (33 hectares) of green grass with winding, uneven paths shaded by tall, slender trees. The cemetery is divided into separate areas for women and men, and Orthodox Jews are buried apart from reformed Jews. I was especially moved by the burial plots and graves of thousands of Jews who died in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII and the partisans killed in the Warsaw Uprising.

© hannah kozak

I wandered for hours alone through the cemetery, noting how the trees seemed to have picked up on the sadness in the air. I was reminded of how I love the peace and meditative atmosphere of cemeteries, and was moved by the Jewish graves.

© hannah kozak

As a young girl, I hadn’t completely formulated what I was doing with photography, but I now understand that being in Jewish cemeteries helps me connect with my father’s side of the family—the family I never got to meet. The Jews buried in the Warsaw cemetery, unlike my father’s family, were given the decency of actual tombs and gravestones. His family; mother, father, both grandparents, and his seven siblings were all killed in the Holocaust.

© hannah kozak

Being in Poland and retracing my father’s steps through his hometown and the forced labor camps he survived surfaced emotions that are hard to put into words. I experienced waves of sadness and sorrow, but found balance and meaning through the blessings I have in my life, including being able to travel to Poland time and time again. I find meaning and peace in those sojourns to Poland. Every time I go, it feels as if I am piecing my life together one step at a time.

© hannah kozak

These photos are constant reminders that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and will continue to change with each breath. There’s something about walking through a cemetery alone, experiencing and internalizing the silence, that makes me reflect on how life is fragile and temporary. As I travel alone, it’s true, there are moments of profound loneliness, but they help put me in touch with my feelings, which help me create these photos. I went into the Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw seeking spiritual, artistic, and emotional grounding, and I attempted to capture the emotions and images I took away from that experience through my photographs.

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

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The tall, skinny trees in Poland.

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Symbolic graves for the Holocaust victims

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“I don’t take photos, I make them.” – Hannah Kozak, 2017

My Mother’s Dolls part 3

My Mother’s Dolls part 3

This project began organically in December 2009 as a way for me to get to know the mother I truly never knew. The camera brought me connection and separation, all at once. I was given the gift of intuitive observance and another gift of recording that observance. I learned to be bold and vulnerable simultaneously. Eight years later, I am continuing my photo essay on my mother called He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard. It’s as if the project took on a life of its own once I started. I sometimes wonder if genetic memory of being a second-generation Holocaust survivor triggered my need not only to recognize but also to spend years of my life creating photos, editing those photos and turning this project into a book, to help tell this story of a social injustice — domestic violence — about which more stories need to be told.

I dreaded being indiscreet, but invading my mother’s and my privacy was the only way to tell this story. I am sharing my mother with the larger audience because eventually publishing a book on her story would be a small victory. She instills such hope in me. I am witness to her heart and her immense reservoir of compassion for humanity. Her entire being is imbued with the quiet principles of spirituality: living in the moment, being non judgmental, forgiving, and kind.

My father used to tell me that what happened to his family and the Jews in Europe in World War II could easily happen again. So I question everything and that’s part of my storytelling aim as a photographer: questioning and sharing. We are only here for a short time so part of my goal is to create something positive for humanity. I love photography because each person will interpret an image through their own individual eyes. Ernest Hemingway said we should write hard and clear about what hurts. I believe this translates to all art forms. This blog is part three of My Mother’s Dolls. It’s an edit of my mother with various dolls she loves, that keep her company day and night.

© hannah kozak

May 16, 2014

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26 May 2014

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23 Nov 2014

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8 December 2014

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8 March 2015

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4 April 2015
After moving into new facility.

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17 April 2015

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23 April 2015
With Olivia and baby Olivia

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13 June 2015

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14 June 2015

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19 June 2015

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22 June 2015

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12 July 2015

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12 July 2015

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22 July 2015

As a bittersweet sidenote, I was awarded the Julia Margaret Cameron Award, 6th Edition, 1st Prize – single Documentary photo from my series on my mother —
He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard.

This project also made it to the finalists for the CDS/Honickman, Duke University 1st Book Prize in Photography 2014.http://firstbookprizephoto.com/hannah-kozak-2014-finalist/

And, this project make it to semi-finalists for the CDS/Honickman, Duke University 1st Book Prize in Photography, 2016.

Early this week I asked my mother what she does every night. She said “I pray to G-d to help me.” “To help me with happiness, I don’t know how to explain.” And then she said “The hardest part of my life is accepting things.” “I want to be like you, Hannah. I want to walk.”

My Mother’s Dolls part 3

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