Malibu-focused photo series on display at Santa Monica Mountains Visitor Center

Southern California photographer Jazan Kozma meets and greets visitors on July 9 

Award-winning photographer Jazan Kozma was present at Anthon C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center on July 9 to meet guests who were there to see her “Keep It Wild” photograph series. 

The “Keep It Wild” series is an ongoing project focused on exploring the natural wonders of the mountains and oceans in the Malibu area. 

Kozma said her years-long series has been about encouraging conservation of the open spaces of park lands in the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu area.

“I try to show people the beauty that we have here. I hope it encourages them to want to protect it and support our public lands. It’s terribly important,” Kozma said. “We have something that is slowly fading away and hopefully we can stop it.”

She said her goal is to document Malibu’s most unexplored areas and present the area in a manner that shows its most undisturbed natural beauty.

“I find that places that are least visited are the most pristine,” Kozma said. “In many ways, I’m trying to portray Malibu how it once was. Few less people, more Eden-like. It’s all under-photographed. I have the chance to discover places through the eye of a lens.”  

The exhibit features scenic photos from across all of Malibu, including areas like Malibu Creek State Park, El Matador State Beach, Point Dume Natural Preserve, and Escondido Falls in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Her artistic process requires her to be sensitive to her surroundings and be open to exploring nature off-trail. She also utilizes her mountain climbing skills as well as practicing protective measures for keeping her camera from breaking on climbs or falling in water. 

Her work also captures wildlife in their natural habitats, with shots of sea lions, bobcats, deer, and a variety of birds. 

She hopes her photos of these animals living and surviving in this shared habitat also help preserve wildlife in the Malibu area. She says it is concerning how some residents fail to coexist with these native animals.

“We’ve had problems with the bobcats and some of the other apex predators due to some of the homeowners using rat poison,” Kozma said. “It basically breaks down their immune system and the animals end up with mange. There’s nothing sadder than photographing a bobcat with mange; it breaks your heart.”

Kozma said that an interesting part of her work has been learning and understanding the behaviors and moods of the wildlife. She said she embraces the wildlife with the exception of the area’s mountain lions. She said she has not yet been able to photograph a mountain lion, but the possibility would come with serious risk.

Kozma explained that she has had one experience with a mountain lion just after the Woolsey Fire, saying it was a sobering experience. She described the lion’s roar as loud and intimidating as those from an African lion, and said that the predator stalked her through the brush as she hiked. She said she was fortunate to run into a large group of hikers that she believes discouraged the animal from attacking. 

The Woolsey Fire also gave way to an interesting period in Kozma’s work. She explained that storms in the months after the fire introduced new life and beauty in the area. 

“As terrible as that fire was, the aftermath of seeing this area come back to life was actually incredibly special and this was one of the most fun times with my camera. It lifted my soul, it gave me hope.” Kozma said.

The exhibit was visited by dozens of people, and Kozma spoke with admirers of her work and discussed her artistic process and vision.

Photographer and local resident Robert Fisher visited the exhibit for the second time and met with the artist after seeing her work the week prior. He was impressed by Kozma’s ability to capture the beauty of Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains. 

“I am in awe of everything she’s displayed. She brought a new dimension to what is available to all of us here,” Fisher said. 

Sophia Wong, store and events manager of Western National Parks at the Santa Monica Recreational Area, helped organize the event and said Kozma is an amazing photographer, and her work presents a unique view of the nature of the area. She explained that the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is the largest urban national park in the United States and she believes Kozma’s work is important in presenting all of the beauty that this area has to offer.

“We have over six hundred miles of hiking and when residents come here and visit our exhibit they’ll see sites that are so close to their homes but they don’t even know that they exist.” Wong said. “We’re hopefully going to create stewards for the national parks, particularly for the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area. 

Kozma’s work is available for purchase at the exhibit and a portion of the funds from the art sales will be used to support local art and cultural programs. 

Her work is being displayed as an exhibit at the center through the rest of the month. The exhibit began on July 2 and will run through July 30. 

KozmaArt 6
Award-winning photographer Jazan Kozma was present at Anthon C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center on July 9 to meet guests who were there to see her “Keep It Wild” photograph series. Photo by Emmanuel Luissi.

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