Diana Kim, 30, first learnt about photography through her father, who at one time owned a photography studio on the island of Maui where she grew up.
But when her parents split up, she says her dad became ‘absent’. She lost touch with him as she spent years living with in different places, with friends, relatives, occasionally in cars – ‘roughing it’ she says.
In 2003 Kim began a long-term photo-project about the homeless; in 2012, she made a shocking discovery. Kim found her father among the homeless she was documenting in Honolulu.
“He wouldn’t talk to me, wouldn’t acknowledge me,” she told Upworthy of that initial attempt to interact with him.
“There were nights when I wouldn’t find him,” Kim told NBC News. “And other days when I least expected it, and he would be standing on the corner of a street. He suffered from severe schizophrenia, and left untreated, he was not always responsive. There were many instances when it appeared as if he was arguing with someone, but nobody was there.”
‘A woman came by and told me to “not bother,” because he stood there all day. I wanted to scream at her for not caring, for being so cruel, and not considering that he was my father,’ she recalls.
It wasn’t until her dad suffered a heart-attack in October 2014, that he agreed to let her help him. Today, he’s doing much better!
Diana recently raised funds on Kickstarter to create a photobook of her journey with her father, called The Homeless Paradise. She also wants to use some of the money to distribute CARE Medical History Bracelets to the homeless who want them, enabling them to carry their ID and important medical documents digitally and securely.
‘My goal, long before my father ever became homeless, was to humanize those who lived on the streets,’ she says. ‘They each have a story, and I hope that by sharing my own story, it helps to give new perspective.’
DIANA KIM STARTED TO DOCUMENT THE HOMELESS IN 2003
SHE LEARNED ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY FROM HER FATHER, BUT LOST TOUCH WITH HIM WHEN HER PARENTS DIVORCED
IN 2012, KIM WAS SHOCKED TO DISCOVER HER FATHER AMONGST THE HOMELESS SHE WAS WAS PHOTOGRAPHING
“I HAD BEEN SEARCHING FOR MY FATHER FOR WEEKS AND FINALLY FOUND HIM SITTING BEHIND A DUMPSTER, TUCKED UNDER A BUSH FOR SHADE”
“He suffered from severe schizophrenia, and left untreated, he was not always responsive”
“There were many instances when it appeared as if he was arguing with someone, but nobody was there”
It was only after a heart-attack saw him hospitalized that Kim’s father agreed to seek treatment for his condition
“I GAVE MY OLD CAMERA TO MY DAD, IN HOPES OF SPARKING HIS INTEREST IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND GIVING HIM SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO. I WANT HIM TO STAY IN THIS GOOD PLACE”
AFTER JUST A FEW MONTHS, HE WAS SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER. “IT FELT GOOD TO SEE HIM SO HEALTH, AND STANDING SO TALL AGAIN”
“My dad spends a lot time with friends and is actively looking for a job”
KIM TOLD NEXTSHARK, “I HAVE LEARNED TO CONTINUE EMBRACING PERSONAL AND SPIRITUAL CHALLENGES AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH”
“LIFE ITSELF IS A GIFT. I AM SO GRATEFUL TO SEE HIM ALIVE AND DOING BETTER. I APPRECIATE WHAT WE HAVE RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW”