Diana Kim lost touch with her dad after her parents separated, and for a long time, she had no idea where he was. Perhaps he was still on Maui, where she grew up. Perhaps not.
The Life Of A Vagabond Daughter
Kim had spent years of her own life being a vagabond of sorts. She traveled and stayed wherever she could for any given period of time. Sometimes she was with relatives or friends, and sometimes she slept in cars.
She knew very little about where her father was, other than what her grandmother shared with her. He began to refuse his medication for schizophrenia, he stopped eating and bathing, and then he disappeared completely.
The Photography Project That Led Her Home
Kim became a photography student, building on skills that she had once learned from her dad, who at one point owned his own photography studio in Maui.
She enrolled in classes to develop her skill, and in 2003 began a project photographing the homeless.
She found her dad among the homeless.
Ten years later, Kim found herself in Honolulu, still capturing the essence of the forgotten homeless through her lens. It was there that she discovered that her father was included in that population. She was devastated.
“A woman came by and told me to ‘not bother,'” Kim explained, according to NBC News. “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 said.
But Kim knew that would do nothing to change the reality of the circumstances. “So I turned towards her and said, ‘I have to try,'” she said.
Many Attempts at Healing
Kim tried hard to help her dad over a period of years, but for a long time, he refused. Her methods would include the very thing that he had ignited a passion in her for years earlier—photography.
“Photographing my own father actually began as a mechanism for protecting myself at first,” Kim explained. “I would raise my camera phone in front of me, almost as if that barrier would help keep me together.”
The irony of it all was not lost on Kim. “My own flesh and blood, but still such a stranger to me,” she said.
The Tipping Point
In October of 2014, Kim’s father had a heart attack. It was at that point that he finally agreed to let her truly help him, and he has not stopped since. Kim’s father is now doing amazingly well and barely remembers his former state.
The journey inspired Kim’s Kickstarter campaign called The Homeless Paradise, which funded a photo book from the now multiple award-winning photographer, medical ID bracelets to be donated to homeless people, and other photography expenses.
“My goal, long before my father ever became homeless, was to humanize those who lived on the streets,” said Kim.”They each have a story, and I hope that by sharing my own story, it helps to give new perspective.”