LIFESTYLE

Photographer Who Documents Homelessness Finds Own Father Living On Streets

13/08/2015 11:15 BST | Updated 13/08/2015 11:59 BST

Photographer Diana Kim had spent years documenting the lives of the homeless, but nothing could prepare her for the moment she recognised her own estranged father living on the streets.

Now, after helping her father integrate back into society, she is determined to share his story through her project The Homeless Paradise in a bid to humanise homelessness and help those who are in the greatest need.

A photo posted by Diana Kim (@homelessparadise) on

Kim's father

Kim, 30, first learned about photography from her father, who owned a photography studio in Maui when she was younger.

When her parents separated, her father became increasingly absent from her life until she completely lost contact.

In 2003 Kim enrolled on a photography course and started documenting homelessness. She found her father in 2012 while shooting in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kim's father suffers from schizophrenia, but until she found him she was unaware of his condition.

In the years prior to finding him in Honolulu, her grandmother had revealed that her father's mental health had deteriorated, that he refused to bathe, eat or take his medication and that his whereabouts were unknown. But that is all she knew.

She describes the moment she saw her father as "devastating". Not only had her father lost a considerable amount of weight, but he didn't recognise her.

"A woman came by and told me to 'not bother,' because he stood there all day," she told NBC News.

"I wanted to scream at her for not caring, for being so cruel, and not considering that he was my father. But then I realised that anger wouldn't do anything to change the circumstances we were in -- so I turned towards her and said, 'I have to try.'"

homeless paradise

Kim and her father

She made the difficult decision to start photographing her father to document his life on the streets. At first she says it was a way of protecting herself.

"I would raise my camera phone in front of me, almost as if that barrier would help keep me together. It hurt to see him like this. Some days I would literally just stand there and stare downwards because I couldn't get myself to see him in the condition he was in. My own flesh and blood, but still such a stranger to me..."

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When her father suffered from a heart attack in October 2014, Kim decided it was time to take action. Someone had called the police and he spent time in hospital recovering.

Now, Kim's father has started taking his own photographs again in an attempt to reconnect to the artist is was many years ago. He is also looking for a part-time job.

"My goal, long before my father ever became homeless, was to humanise those who lived on the streets," says Kim. "They each have a story, and I hope that by sharing my own story, it helps to give new perspective."

Kim raised an incredible $10,000 through her Kickstarter campaign. She pledges to create a photo book on The Homelessness Project that will document her father's journey as well as others living on the street. She also plans to showcase her father's street photography.

Kim will also distribute CARE Medical History Bracelets, which are waterproof, electronic wristbands that story medical information and identification. She hopes this will help the homeless keep track of important documents.

If you want to suport Kim's project you can still donate here.