Separated since she was 5, photographer met her father while taking homeless man’s photos

A Korean American photographer and law student Diana Kim can trace her love of photography back to her father, who used to own a photography studio on O’ahu.  She learnt this art from her father. Kim’s father used to be a photographer too. Her parents were divorced when she was five years old. She had a tough childhood, bouncing from place to place in search of a permanent home. Kim and her mother were having a difficult time, they sometimes stay with their relatives and friends. In worst cases, the mother and daughter sometimes stay in the park or just spend the night in the car. Until just a few years ago, however, not much else connected father and daughter except for a strained relationship marked by disappointment, hurt, and absence.

She enjoys taking photos of homeless people ever since she was in college. She believes that photography opens a window for her to experience the world—from the people she interacted with and the things she interested in. Her passion lead the 30-year-old photographer to meet her father again after her parents went separate ways since she was 5 years old.

After entering college in 2003, Kim began taking photos of homeless people out of her own interest. Even in the next decade when she became a successful photographer, the life of the homeless has always been the subject in her photography.  “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.”

When Kim was filming the Honolulu homeless in 2012, she suddenly saw her father on the corner of the street. The man who she remembered abandoning her as a child was now homeless, unwashed, dressed in rags, and extremely thin. Worst of all, he didn’t even recognize her. A chance encounter brought the two back together again, sparking an extraordinarily moving journey of love and forgiveness in the face of mental illness, homelessness, and hardship.

“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.” “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.”

As the father’s serious schizophrenia was not treated, he usually does not respond to anything and often seen arguing with the people around him but the truth is there was no one around him. She always goes back to him, keeping all her hopes close to her heart. He refused to get treatment, take medication, eat, bathe, or wear any of the new clothes Kim brought him. One day, Kim heard that her father had a heart attack on the street and was taken to the hospital.

Despite his health problems, there was a silver lining to his heart attack it led him to finally agree to receive help through a treatment plan, and day by day, he began to take back control of his life. Her father’s condition greatly improved after the treatment. He now has friends again and started looking for a job to earn money. Kim feels that seeing her father gets back to his normal life is the best gift for her and she sees challenges as an opportunity for growth.  Now, Kim is happy to report that her father is doing well.

Kim’s passion was photography and made it into her career.

When Kim was 5, her parents divorced and her father completely disappeared out of her sight.

Homeless people are at the center of Kim’s photography.

Kim recognized her father as she saw him after years.

Kim’s father was homeless and schizophrenic.

Kim’s father also refused his daughter’s help to get him treated.

Kim’s father is slowly gaining back his health.


He started to look for a job to earn money and to have a sense of accomplishment.

Just like how photography let her meets her father again, Kim hoped that she can change people’s views on the homeless issue through her story.


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