The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

Got a tip? Have something you need to tell us? Contact us

Loading Recent Classifieds...

Glendale photo exhibit sheds light on domestic abuse

Miya Hantman
Ten photos of Hannah Kozak’s mother in the assisted care facility where she has lived for half of her life.

In a small library gallery, an intimate collection of photos displays the painful aftermath of domestic abuse. One image capturing a quiet moment of vulnerability stands out.

A woman in a hospital bed, her hand reaching towards the person behind the camera. Extending from the bottom of the frame is the hand of her daughter, Hannah Kozak, reaching back, a symbol of the restored bond between parent and child.

The photo is one of many in an emotional photography exhibit titled “He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard.”

Photographer and former stunt woman Hannah Kozak aims to provide an insightful glimpse into her mother’s experience with domestic abuse with this exhibit. The photos depict the life of a young mother struggling with a violent relationship and Kozak’s journey to forgiving her for leaving.

“I could spend the rest of my life judging her, or I could get some tools that enable me to see that she was a human being, a complex human being, just like I am, just like we all are,” said Kozak on the project.

The exhibit is on display at the Glendale Library in the ReflectSpace gallery until Dec. 10. According to Kozak, the purpose of the exhibit is to both share her own story and bring awareness to the generational impact of domestic abuse.

The project started when she was just nine years old and witnessed her mother enter a violent and toxic relationship. Her mother suffered permanent brain damage from the abuse, and was moved into two assisted living facilities where she would stay for half of her life.

Feeling abandoned, Kozak harbored judgment and anger towards her mother for years. When she eventually suffered a debilitating injury herself, Kozak decided to focus on healing emotionally. In December 2009, she began visiting her mother and photographing her, and continued to do so for a decade.

“It was very uncomfortable for me when I started. My mother was a stranger to me. She had been living institutionalized for decades,” Kozak said.

The exhibit includes images of the artist herself, along with striking black and white photographs of her mother’s daily life in the assisted care facilities. Upon walking into the intimate gallery, viewers are met with a large canvas with superimposed images of her mother.

By taking these photos, Kozak was able to understand and finally forgive herself for judging the choices her mother made in her youth.

“I needed separation while trying to make a connection, but once I got to know who she was, it was like falling in love with this beautiful soul,” Kozak said. “I scheduled my days and my nights and my work around her. I loved being with her.”

According to Kozak, photography has been a way for her to navigate the world and express her emotions since she was a child. The process of creating “He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard” has allowed her to step outside of her comfort zone and build a relationship with her mother after years of separation.

“I was able to dissolve the judgments I carried about her and myself, and begin to forge a relationship with her,” Kozak said.

Along with being a way for her to process her trauma and heal the relationship with her mother, Kozak said she also hopes “He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard” will help others who may be experiencing a similar hardship feel less alone.

“I knew that this project was going to help other people, and that became part of the goal,” Kozak said.

Photography has long served as a creative outlet for artists to bring awareness to social issues such as domestic abuse. Capturing moments of visible vulnerability is a powerful way to evoke empathy and understanding from viewers.

Oftentimes, victims of domestic abuse suffer silently and are isolated from support systems. Kozak said one of the major reasons behind pursuing this project was to encourage those in an abusive relationship to escape before it is too late.

“If I did my mother proud, then I’ve done my job,” said Kozak. “And if somebody leaves an abusive relationship after seeing this work, well, I’ve just done something very meaningful with my life, haven’t I?”

More information about Kozak’s book “He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard,” which features the photos from the exhibit, can be found on her website.

More to Discover