Photographer Hannah Kozak Discovers The Power Of Forgiveness & Reconciliation With Her Mother In New Photo Book

The report from the second hospital my mother went to during the summer of 1974 states she had a “severe subarachnoid hemorrhage,” which is a life threatening type of stroke caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. As a result she had a right hemiparesis, meaning paralysis on her right side.

When Los Angeles based photographer and former Hollywood stuntwoman Hannah Kozak was nine years old, her mother walked away from her husband and five children to be with another man who turned out to be violent. From the age of nine to fourteen, Hannah witnessed the man abuse her mother on the weekends she spent with them. In 1974, he beat Hannah’s mother so badly she sustained permanent brain damage which left her partially paralyzed on one side and unable to walk on her own, cloth or feed herself. Since the age of forty-one she has lived in assisted living facilities in Los Angeles.  

Hannah had early, fond memories of her mother as a beautiful, vivacious, fiery Guatemalan Sophia Loren-type brunette who loved to sing and dance the Flamenco. But because her mother abandoned Hannah when she was a child, she carried overwhelming feelings of rage towards her mother and did not visit her regularly for decades in an attempt to distance herself from her own pain. 

My mother’s second husband with his dog, Rocky, in their backyard.

Preferring to stare fear in the face than be paralyzed by it, and to further escape from reality, Hannah spent twenty-five years in the film industry as a Hollywood stuntwoman (her dream job since childhood), performing high falls, stair falls, train falls, car hits, bike hits, fights, driving and fire burns. In October of 2004, she broke both of her feet jumping out of a helicopter onto the tallest building in Los Angeles. While recovering from the stunt accident, she experienced a spiritual epiphany. “I realized when I couldn’t walk and was crying in my bedroom, I needed to forgive myself for judging my mother for leaving.” 

Hannah began photographing her mother in 2009, twenty-nine years after she was forced to spend the rest of her life in a nursing home, as a way to process her feelings towards a mother that she had never truly known. “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. ‘He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard‘ is the story of our reconciliation.”

March 12, 2017.
My Valentine’s Day card to my mother February 14, 2015

“I have been deeply invested in photographing my mother for ten years.  Her complexity continues to beckon me: I will not avert my eyes from the truth of her condition no matter how difficult it is to see.  Someone must be witness to her life. In addition, I want my photographs to make people pause and question the nature of the human condition and assess their own will to live.” 

“My mother is my muse.  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.”

This is love. January 21, 2014
Self-portrait with my mother. 8/27/16

“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.”

He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard‘ includes a personal essay by Hannah Kozak and Hope Edelman. Hope is an internationally bestselling author, speaker, writing instructor, and coach. She has published seven books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller ‘Motherless Daughters‘ (Da Capo Books), ‘Motherless Mothers‘ (HarperCollins), and ‘The Possibility of Everything‘ (Ballantine). Aline Smithson, who contributes a commentary to the book, is a visual artist, educator, and editor based in Los Angeles and the founder and editor of LENSCRATCH, a photography journal that celebrates a different contemporary photographer each day. 

For more information, visit:

For International book orders, go to

For U.S. book sales, go to:

Comments are closed.