Diana Kim, a 30-year-old Hawaii-based photographer and law student was introduced to the spectacular world of photography—which later became her passion—at a very tender age by her father, who used to own a photography studio in O’ahu.
This was, however, over 25 years ago, and is probably one of the few good memories Diana has of her father. Her parents separated, and he left the family when she was only 5. Afterward, she struggled with her life as she began living with friends and relatives, and soon left touch with her father who became MIA. “I always thought of it as ‘roughing it,’ so it didn’t really bother me. My survival instincts were always strong”, Kim told NBC news.
In 2003, Kim began a long-term personal project of documenting homeless people which would soon lead to The Homeless Paradise—an initiative dedicated to “humanizing” the homeless people by sharing their stories. The photographer told NextShark “I first started photographing the homeless community in my first year of college. I gravitated towards the homeless because in some ways I identified with their struggle. I knew what it meant to be discarded, to be neglected, and to not have the stability and economic freedom I wanted. Overall, I understood their struggle because I struggled in the same way.”
In 2012, Kim was shocked to discover her own father while taking photographs of the homeless on the streets of Honolulu. The man in rags looked disheveled and lost, and didn’t even recognize her when she approached him.
Diana was heartbroken. Her father was suffering from severe schizophrenia and looked severely malnourished. Said she “He didn’t respond or turn around when I approached him, so I stood there trying to get him to look at me and acknowledge me. It was at that moment when a woman came up to me and said, ‘Don’t bother, he stands there all the time.’”
“Part of me wanted to scream at the woman, and the world, for being so callous. Yell that he was my father, and that she was heartless not to care. But none of that would change the circumstances. So instead of screaming, I faced her and said, “I have to try.”
She then spent almost a year and a half trying to help her father, rehabilitate his life and start afresh. It was only after a heart attack when his father finally agreed to seek help and treat his condition.
Her father’s condition improved drastically and after only a few months, he was significantly better.
“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”, Diana told NextShark.
All thanks to her dedication and perseverance, her father is now happy and is spending time with his friends, actively looking for a job while simultaneously planning a trip to South Korea to visit his family. “He is really proud of the fact that he has overcome such an incredible adversity. He has goals, he has hope, and he has the will to succeed.”
“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.” Touche, we say!
Isn’t it amazing what life has to offer at every juncture of your journey? This story, which is nothing short of a miracle, reiterates the same. What do you think guys?
All images belong to Diana Kim and her project The Homeless Paradise.