The photography exhibit “SURVIVOR – My Father’s Ghosts” by Hannah Kozak continues through May 15 at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque.
The exhibit coincides with Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is recognized in Israel from April 27-28, and the Days of Remembrance, recognized in the U.S. from April 24 to May 1.
The exhibit features black-and-white photographs of Nazi labor camps Kozak’s father was forced to stay at from 1943 until he was liberated on May 8, 1945. The photos were taken on a 1961 Rolleiflex 2.8F, with 200 of them being produced on silver gelatin prints by a master printmaker. Forty of the photos are on display at the JCC.
Kozak was born to a Polish father and Guatemalan mother in Los Angeles, Cailfornia. She was given a Kodak Brownie camera by her father when she was 10 years old and has since become an award-winning artist and photographer. Kozak received the Julia Margaret Cameron Award 5th Edition for Female Photographer of the Year for her self-portrait nude series “Pain and Loneliness.” She also won the Julia Margaret Cameron Award 10th edition for first prize documentary for the series “He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard,” which was published into a book in 2020.
According to Kozak’s biography on hannahkozak.com, she spent 25 years working with notable directors such as Michael Cimino, David Lynch, Mike Nichols, Tim Burton and Michael Bay. She also worked as a stunt double for celebrities Cher, Angelina Jolie, Lara Flynn Boyle and Isabella Rossellini. Some of Kozak’s art can be found at hannahkozak.com and on Instagram @hannahkozak. She can also be followed on Twitter @hannahkozak.
“SURVIVOR – My Father’s Ghosts” is jointly presented by the JCC and the New Mexico Holocaust Museum. The exhibit is in a multipurpose room at the JCC and may be used for other events and group viewings. Call 505-332-0565 before visiting to make sure a time slot is available. To learn more about Days of Remembrance, visit the United States Holocaust Museum at ushmm.org/remember/days-of-remembrance.
“My father, a Holocaust Survivor, was never a victim. His unresolved grief and sadness became a catalyst for ambition. His parents were Orthodox Jews and my father was the only one in his family to survive including his seven siblings, parents and grandparents. My father was in daily direct contact with death. Starving and weakened, he never gave up hope. He walked with death and lived so that I could tell his story. As I walked the grounds at Treblinka, where his brother was murdered after fighting in the resistance, I found myself humming Hebrew songs, chanting the prayers of dead souls. There was always a shadow of Poland behind my father.
I traveled to Poland a number of times to retrace his steps and the camps where his family was murdered. Dernau, in particular, quieted me while awakening every sense. I saw the barbed wire fence that kept him prisoner, and I heard crickets and the ever-present singing of birds that seemed to sing differently in Poland. I wondered if he heard the running water from the creek surrounding the camp. Could he see the tall, sinewy trees that seemed so sad to me? Parts of Poland feel as if they are still crying. The earth must have absorbed so many tears, so much anguish.
The remains of the war fascinate me even as a cloud of darkness from my father’s past has haunted me since I was ten years old. I grapple to understand man’s inhumanity to man. I understand now that I will never truly comprehend what happened to my family, but my continued sojourns to Poland and Germany will help me discover the answer to my questions, in Person.
My father asked me to tell his story toward the end of his life. I took this as a task. As a second generation survivor, perhaps this is a reason for my existence. These are my love letters to him.”