Artist Spends 10 Years Taking Photos Of Homeless People, Only To Discover Her Own Father Among Them


Diana Kim is a 30-year-old O'ahu-based photographer whose love of her home, and her craft, were born from her family.

"I grew up on the island of Maui and consider the islands to be home," said Kim. "My father owned a photography studio at one time, so my earliest introduction to photography was through him."

But over time, Kim's parents separated. Her father, she says, became "absent." Kim spent years bouncing between relatives' homes, including a few years living in parks, cars, and with friends.

"I always thought of it as 'roughing it,' so it didn't really bother me," she recalled. "My survival instincts were always strong."

In 2003, as a student, Kim began a photo essay about the homeless communities around her, continuing and expanding the project and her advocacy for years.

Years later, Kim's grandmother alerted her that her father's mental health had deteriorated – that he refused to bathe, eat, or take his medication; that she wasn't sure where he was living. While shooting her project on the streets of Honolulu in 2012, Kim found her father among the homeless she was documenting. Over the next few years, struggling to reconnect and breakthrough to him, she turned her camera on the man she thought she had lost.

Kim shared her photos with NBC Asian America, along with the stories behind them. Scroll down to see them all.

  1. Diana Kim started to document the homeless in 2003

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  2. She learned about photography from her father, but lost touch with him when her parents divorced

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    Diana Kim with her father, 1988

  3. In 2012, Kim was shocked to discover her father amongst the homeless she was was photographing

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    April 12, 2013

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  5. “I had been searching for my father for weeks and finally found him sitting behind a dumpster, tucked under a bush for shade”

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    October 10, 2013 / August 4, 2013

  6. “He suffered from severe schizophrenia, and left untreated, he was not always responsive”

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    June 5, 2014

  7. “There were many instances when it appeared as if he was arguing with someone, but nobody was there”

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    June 5, 2014

  8. It was only after a heart-attack saw him hospitalized that Kim’s father agreed to seek treatment for his condition

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    October 20, 2014

  9. “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”

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    December 2014

  10. After just a few months, he was significantly better. “It felt good to see him so health, and standing so tall again”

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  11. “My dad spends a lot time with friends and is actively looking for a job”

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    Diana Kim and her father, 2015

  12. Kim told NextShark, “I have learned to continue embracing personal and spiritual challenges as an opportunity for growth”

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  13. “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”

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    July 17, 2015

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