Books: A Personal Book About Domestic Violence

By David Schonauer   Thursday October 10, 2019

Injury has been part of Hannah Kozak’s life.

As we noted in a 2016 profile, Kozak began her career as a photographer after she broke both of her feet jumping out of an airplane. At the time, she was working as a movie stuntwoman: She had appeared in movies and television shows, including Con Air, Transformers, and Twin Peaks, doubling for actresses like Isabella Rossellini, Cher and Angelina Jolie. After breaking her feet in a stunt, she began to reassess her life.

“As I got older, it took longer to heal from injuries,” she said.

She decided to walk away from her stunt career, then ended up getting into a line of work that scared her in a different way. Kozak went back to college to study psychology. As part of her course work, she began to confront a source of pain that had troubled her since childhood by renewing a relationship with her estranged mother.

Kozak was a nine-year-old growing up in California when her mother left her and her father. “She had fallen in love with another man,” Kozak said. “She would come to pick me up on weekends. I didn’t know until later that it was because she was afraid to be alone.”

The man her mother had gone away with turned out to be violent. When Kozak was 14, her mother ended up in the intensive-care unit of the UCLA Medical Center. “He had gone too far,” Kozak says. “My mother had such severe brain damage that she had eventually had to be put in an assisted-care facility for the elderly.” She was just 42 at the time and has been living in various care facilities every since.”

Visiting her mother was a daunting experience. Kozak, a lifelong photo enthusiast, always had a camera with her “I would come home from the facility she was living in and edit my photos and be in tears,” she says. The need to tell her mother’s story drove her. “If I don’t tell it, it won’t get told,” she told PPD.

The task also led her to the realization that she wanted to be a photographer. “I’m a storyteller and I didn’t know I was,” she said. “At some point I realized I could tell this story.”

The result is her powerful series “He Threw The Last Punch Too Hard.” The work came to the attention of Aline Smithson, founder of the Lenscratch blog. Together, they created a book dummy, which in 2014 was shortlisted for the the CDS Honickman First Book Prize in Photography, the prestigious award from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Now the work is being published as a hardcover book from FotoEvidence, which supports photographer focused on issues of human rights and social justice. A Kickstarter funding campaign for the book was launched in September.

"I began photographing my mother as a way to process my feelings towards a mother I had never truly known," Kozak writes at Kickstarter. "I hoped by photographing her I could bring closure to an open wound I had my entire life. In the process, I grew to love my mother and discover the power of forgiveness."

Backers can receive a print from the book or a print from another of Kozak’s projects, a series of nude self-portraits that, she notes, “tie into my earliest experience with my mother, when I was shaped by early traumatic events that were all too real and almost impossible to comprehend.”



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