All personal images @ hannah kozak U.S. Copyright Office registration
I’m honored to announce that I was named as a finalist in the FotoEvidence W Award, 2019 for my 10 year project, He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard. We have created a beautiful black and white & color book in partnership with FotoEvidence. FotoEvidence recognizes documentary photography that demonstrates courage and commitment in addressing a violation of human rights, a significant injustice or an assault on human dignity. FotoEvidence books are dedicated to long-form projects of documentary photographers working in the humanistic tradition. This book is the story of my mother, who suffered brain damage from her second husband’s abuse. It’s also the story of mother-daughter reconciliation and the affects of domestic violence on a family. I'm quite proud of this project.
The book is now available with a worldwide release date of August 2020.
Shortlisted for the 2020 Lucie Book Prize in the Independent Category as Best First Photo Book of 2020.
Selected by Women Photograph as one of the best photo books for 2020.
Selected by Buzzfeed as one of the Top 20 photo books.
Shortlisted by PhotoBook Journal as Interesting Artist and Photographic Books for 2020.
Back-cover-blurb by Roger Ballen.
Order He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard
About the Book
I began photographing my mother in December, 2009 as a way to process my feelings towards a mother I had never truly known and by photographing her, I brought closure to an open wound I had my entire life. In the process, I grew to love my mother and this project, He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard, was born. I think her story could inspire other women to leave an abusive relationship, before it’s too late.
Today, my mother is my muse, but our relationship hasn’t always been so simple. …
When I was nine, my mother left our family after falling in love with another man. The man she left us for turned out to be violent: he beat her so badly that she suffered permanent brain damage and had to be moved into an assisted living facility at the age of forty one, where she still lives today. My mother has been institutionalized for half of her life.
I have early, fond memories of my mother as a beautiful, passionate, vivacious, and fiery Guatemalanesque Sophia Loren. But since she left, I have had tremendous feelings of abandonment and rage towards her. Her actions led me to judge her as an impetuous, selfish, reckless and negligent mother. I resented what she did to herself and to her family. I carried so much anger, yet whenever I saw her, I was overcome with pity and sadness. Just looking at her right hand gnarled from the brain damage brought forth more emotion than I could bear. For these reasons, I have virtually ignored my mother in an attempt to distance myself from my own pain.
But pain ignored does not disappear and over time I came to realize our relationship needed healing. Working as a stuntwoman of 25 years, I broke both feet jumping out of a helicopter onto the tallest building in downtown L.A. That time forced me to go inward, where I made the decision to return to school. I had to hurt so much that something broke inside of me. Thankfully, through graduate work in Spiritual Psychology and work I did with a healer, I was able to dissolve the judgments I carried about my mother and myself and begin to forge a relationship with her.
I feel our connection without fear as I create photos meant to take me out of my comfort zone. These photos tell my mother's story of isolation, loneliness, abuse, connection, compassion, forgiveness, family, humanity, grace, joy and above all, love. I didn’t need to travel the world to deepen my spirituality. My greatest teacher was in front of me my entire life. I just couldn’t see it was my mother; a true Bodhisattva. She forgave me for not visiting her all those decades without uttering a word. I forgave her for leaving our family. Forgiveness happens when you care more about the love in a relationship than the logic of your ego. I no longer pity my mother. She continually inspires me teaching me to live by my heart, not my head. The love I feel for her has broken my heart wide open.
My mother is a symbol of perseverance. Even though she suffered permanent disability from domestic violence; she never lost her kindness, belief in love and hope. As my mother’s body deteriorated; her right hand turning in more, her soul flourished. What happened to my mother also fractured my persona yet we both grew from the trauma and she refused to be covered with a veil of pity. She is comfortable in silence and is fully present in the moment. I never planned to show these photos when I made them but I've learned that by sharing myself and my process of healing, that in turn helps others on their path to healing.