Korean American photographer, Diana Kim enjoys taking photos of homeless people ever since she was in college. But what’s more interesting is when she was able to meet her father again because of this interest of hers.
In 2012, the lady photographer was in Honolulu when she discovered that his father was among the homeless people she was documenting.
Diana Kim was only 5 years old when her parents separated, since then her father completely disappeared out of her sight.
After her parents separated, Diana and her mother had a difficult life, sometimes they stay with their relatives or crashed at friends’ houses. There were also times when they had stayed in the park or just spend the night in the car.
“I have always regarded my hardship as a kind of experience so that life doesn’t bother me too much. My survival instinct is very strong,” she said.
According to Diana, her father was the one who taught her how to photograph because he used to be a photographer too in Maui, Hawaii. She also believes that photography opens a window for her to experience the world—from the people she interacted with.
She started taking photos of homeless people out of her own interest, and eventually became a successful photographer. The subject of her photography has always been about the life of the homeless people.
The 30-year-old photographer explained that she can somehow relate to these people’s feelings:
“I feel that I can understand their pain from a certain angle. I know what it meant to be abandoned and forgotten. I also know the pain of not being able to get a stable life and economic freedom that I long because I have experienced it all.”
While documenting homeless people on the streets of Honolulu, she suddenly saw her father in the corner of the street.Her father was now homeless, dressed in rags, unwashed, and extremely thin. The worst part of it is he can’t even recognize his own daughter.
She said, “The father is much thinner than before and obviously he has severe schizophrenia. I finally walked to him and called him ‘Dad’. My father didn’t answer me, didn’t even turn to see me. So I stood by him trying to attract his attention, looking forward to him being able to recognize me.”
Because they were separated when Kim was 5-year-old, he could not recognize her, but Diana recognized her father at a glance. Although she hesitated at first, she walked over her father and realized that her father changed a lot physically.
“But at that time a lady came to me and asked me to just ignore him because he has always been standing there like that. I really feel like wanted to bark at that woman because I thought what she said was ruthless. He is my father but that woman didn’t understand, so I just said to her that I must try to wake him up.”
She learned that her father suffered from severe schizophrenia and he was not treated, that’s why he was often seen arguing with the people around him, even if there’s nobody around, aside from that he does not usually respond to anything.
But the lady photographer never gives up and she always goes back to him, offering some help and keeping all her hopes close to her heart. One day, Diana received a call telling her that her father had suffered a heart attack on the street and was taken to the hospital.
Despite his health problems, Diana had a glimmer of hope because her father can finally be in the hospital and receive help through a treatment plan for his mental illness.
Day by day, her father’s condition greatly improved and began to take back control of his life. He started actively looking for a job, happily spending time with friends and family and even has plans to visit his family in South Korea.
Diana shared that seeing her father gets back to his normal life is the best gift for her. “It felt so good to see him so healthy, and standing so tall again. We must have hugged for a couple of minutes,” Diana said.