Los Angeles, A City Filled With Hope on November 3, 2020

There was no possibility that I was going to watch the news or doom scroll on Twitter on election night. As I grabbed a back up battery, I rushed out the front door. I always carry an extra SanDisk card in case I forget my card in my camera which last night I did as I was anxious to get into the city and in my car I went. Beginning on Sunset Blvd, I headed east from Laurel Canyon. That’s when I began to see my city with boarded up stores as far as Western Avenue. I stopped by Objets d’Art & Spirit, to see the owner who has worked for decades to build her dream in Los Angeles. This store was on LaCienega for nearly three decades and is now on Sunset Blvd. My heart hurt to see her store being boarded up with plywood.

Motion Picture Editors Guild on Sunset Blvd.

Objets’ d’art and Spirit.

Self Portrait on Sunset Blvd. 

 

This sign gave me hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I parked my car so I could walk my city. Yes, my city. I grew up in Los Angeles specifically in the San Fernando Valley. Back in the 70’s, there was less crime. The worst thing that happened here was a hub cap was stolen off a car. The abuse went on behind closed doors. Now, as I walked around with my camera near Western and Sunset, I saw the taco truck where people gathered to place their orders. One man was hanging lights as the others were cooking meat and vegetables and onions over a hot grill. I saw people on their cell phones and others waiting for the bus. Mothers holding their children’s hands, a couple taking off on their skateboards after a quick chat with me. I was filled with so much hope for my city, my country, our world. 

As I drove south towards Melrose, I still had no idea how close the polls were. I thought of my father, who came to this country from Poland as an immigrant after working with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society for five years, to get the proper permissions to enter America. His hopes were to start a new life, a life after the Holocaust and America was his chosen dream. My father taught me that with hard work, I could create my own dream and I did but it required dedication, commitment and a never ending drive and persistance to become a stunt woman in Hollywood.

As I drove west on Melrose and saw more store fronts all covered with wood to protect the stores from the inevitable damage, I stopped at another taco bar on the street. There were 4 people working there from the women chopping the onions to the one creating the warm tortillas to the men again cooking the various meats. I thought of my father, who worked at least 4 different jobs to put food on the table for his five children. I passed movie studios were I have worked over the three decades in Hollywood not only as a stunt woman but in locations. My dreams came true in this city. I know this city like no other from where to park without getting a ticket to where to get the best street taco.  Still, I remained hopeful for the outcome of this election. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I drove south on Highland and headed to Wilshire Blvd and onto Beverly Hills, I had heard that Rodeo Blvd was boarded up but I had no idea what was in store for me. Not only boarded up stores but all access to Rodeo Blvd was blocked with barriers, police and security guards. Here, I spoke to a young man and asked if he knew where we were in the polls. He said it was close. I asked him who he voted for as I could feel his answer in my bones. “Trump” he replied “And now I regret it.” I had no words so I stayed silent. This was the first time I checked my phone all evening to see the poll numbers. 

 

 

 

Photographing Beverly Hills and all our city with boards up and down the streets hurt my heart. What has happened to our country and can we save it? When I awoke this morning, November 4, my dear friend Ruth, who has been building homes in Los Angeles for years, posted the poem “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith on Instagram and wrote “America! I believe you have good bones.” Maggie Smith writes out of experience of motherhood, inspired by her children. And, Ruth, who has worked so hard to raise her two children in Los Angeles, gave me hope this morning.

I thought of my father, who would buy the crummiest homes because he said “It had good bones” and how he bought homes and built homes all over the San Fernando Valley to support his children and give them a better life than he had in Poland. I awoke with hope, again. 

 

 

 

Good Bones by Maggie Smith

 

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

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:

© hannah kozak
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

© 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

Self Portrait plus one
Self Portrait plus one: No trip is complete without a visit to the local cemetery.
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The Magic of Oaxaca, Mexico