I Was Nine Years Old When My Mother Left
The genesis of this project goes back to 1969. I was nine years old and my mother left my father for another man. From the ages of nine to fourteen, I witnessed my mother’s second husband abuse her on the weekends I spent with them. In 1974, I walked down the long, quiet hallway at the UCLA Medical Center and turned the corner to peek into her room. She was unconscious in bed. Her life, my life, my siblings lives, and my father’s life all changed from that moment on.
The man she left us for beat her so badly that she suffered permanent brain damage. After caring for her for seven years, my father moved my mother into an assisted living facility at the age of forty one, where she lived for thirty-five years. She has spent the last four years at a different facility. Thirty-nine years in two aging facilities.
I had early, fond memories of my mother as a beautiful, passionate, vivacious, and fiery Guatemalan Sophia Loren. But because she left, I had tremendous feelings of abandonment and rage towards her. I judged her as an impetuous, selfish, reckless and negligent mother. I resented what she did to herself and to her family. I carried vast anger, yet whenever I saw her, I was overcome with pity and sadness. Just looking at her right hand, gnarled from brain damage, brought forth more emotion than I could bear. For these reasons, I virtually ignored my mother in an attempt to distance myself from my own pain.
I began photographing my mother as a way to process my feelings towards a mother I 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. This project, "He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard," is the story of our reconciliation.
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.
Our story reveals the power of forgiveness, as she forgave me for avoiding her for years, and I forgave her for abandoning me and our family. I love being with her because she’s present, childlike, forgiving, uncomplaining, gracious, grateful and kind. On the other hand, sometimes her life feels like an emotional horror story. Part of my goal in telling this story is the hope that someone seeing it will escape from an abusive relationship before it is too late.
Hannah Kozak’s images are a testament to how photography can transmit a state of being that words cannot render. Her images reveal deep empathy and emotions that the viewer will not forget. Roger Ballen, Photographer.
He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard will contain between 50 and 70 images and my own reflections on the journey of reconciliation and love that I traveled with my mother and my camera.
The book will be published in hardcover by FotoEvidence, a publisher of documentary photography focused on human rights and social justice. I will be working with the FotoEvidence team, photo editor Régina Monfort and designer Melike Taşçıoğlu, to create an intimate book that reflects the painful consequence of domestic violence and the remarkable human capacity for healing.
All funds raised will be allocated to the editing, design and printing of the book. Please join me and FotoEvidence on this project by backing He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard.
For backers who would like a print, I am offering a print from the book. But because I feel the images from the book may not lend themselves to hanging on the wall, I am also offering the option of a print from another long-term project of nude self portraits.
These nude self portraits 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. At the end of relationships, as a way to process my pain and loneliness, I reached for my camera. These photos tie in to my childhood wound of abandonment.
Select your print from the images below (A,B,C or D)
Risks and challenges
If the project is backed I don't anticipate any serious obstacles to its completion. FotoEvidence has a skilled and experienced team that has developed and published 24 photo books on schedule and within budget. We expect to be able to produce a beautiful book in a timely fashion.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter