- Hide menu

Hannah Kozak: 2014 Finalist

Ever since I was a little girl, I have preferred the truth to clever fictions. When I was nine years old, my mother abandoned our family to have an affair. 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 the assisted living facility where she still lives today, thirty-four years later.

I have early fond memories of my mother as a beautiful, passionate, and vivacious Guatemalan Sophia Loren. But after she left us, I judged her as an impetuous, selfish, reckless, and negligent mother. I had tremendous feelings of abandonment and rage toward her. I carried so much anger. Yet whenever I saw her, I was overcome with pity and sadness. Seeing her gnarled hand was more than I could bear. I virtually ignored my mother in an attempt to distance myself from my own pain. I think we become accustomed to looking away. But we can’t grow much forgiveness and compassion that way.

_psEmbed(“http://cdsporch.photoshelter.com”, “fallback=1”);

But the pain remained, and it became clear to me that our relationship needed healing. Through graduate work in spiritual psychology and by working with a healer, I was able to begin to forge a relationship with my mother. Now, instead of judging her, I feel forgiveness and compassion for her, and myself.

I have struggled with these photographs. I am attempting to present something that is not easily presentable: These photos are so personal, so profoundly private. These are my intimate, sealed truths.

I began He Threw The Last Punch Too Hard in 2009, twenty-nine years after my mother first entered the nursing home at the age of forty-two, as a way to process my feelings. I hoped that photographing my mother, whom I had never really known, would help close the open wound I have felt most of my life.

Photography was the catalyst for healing my relationship with my mother. On this road to acceptance, I experienced my raw emotions from behind the safe distance of my camera. The camera allowed me to find both the connection and separation that I needed.

Through my camera’s lens, I found love for my mother. I discovered a rare woman filled with love for all human beings, not just family and friends; a true bodhisattva. Nothing is black and white. My mother found hope when it seemed impossible; she found a way to survive. Her spirit, her will to live, is a great testament to her ability to live without bitterness. This is our personal quest: to find out who we are, why we are here, and what lies in store for us.—Hannah Kozak


Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *