THE HOMELESS PARADISE - A Photography Project by Diana Kim
My project The Homeless Paradise is a continuation of a photographic project I began nearly three years ago, and was sparked by my personal experience of documenting my father's life on the streets of Honolulu.
I plan to produce a photo book containing photographs of my personal experiences with my father, and Polaroid portraits of homeless individuals in my community.
In addition to producing a photo book, I will distribute CARE Medical History Bracelets to the homeless individuals who would like to have an alternative option of securing their important documents and forms of ID.
I spent about a year and a half trying to assist my father as he battled a severe mental illness. During that time, I chronicled our experiences in a personal blog (www.homelessparadise.com), in hopes of somehow helping to humanize homelessness.
Our time together on the streets was more than I had ever spent with him as a child, and I struggled with reconciling my feelings towards my father's absence in my life, while continuing to care deeply for homeless individuals.
Initially, I felt as if every fabric of my existence was tearing apart because I couldn't "fix him." Over time, I learned to navigate through my feelings of desperation and became more vocal in my community with my father's condition and the personal struggle of having to watch a loved one battle mental illness.
I ended up spending a year documenting his journey, and built up the courage to regain my voice on this issue while going on-air with Beth-Ann Kozlovich at the Hawaii Public Radio station. Just weeks after the interview, I learned that my father had a heart attack and was found on the sidewalk. A good samaritan had cared enough to call 911, and he has thankfully been receiving the medical care he desperately needed.
I realized shortly afterwards how important it is to have IDs and other important documentation to reintegrate into society. Many homeless individuals face the threat of losing their documents, having them stolen, or thrown away by city and county sweeps.
I want to address this issue by providing an alternative option, and have accepted a partnership with the CARE Medical History Bracelets team. I will digitize forms of ID and any important medical documents for the homeless individuals who want to participate in the project, and gift them with a bracelet right on the spot.
The Homeless Paradise Community
While spending time on the streets with my dad, I became much more familiar with those who lived nearby. My hope is to expand this project by continuing to share the stories of those who are still on the streets today. I believe that this is an empowering opportunity that will allow them to control the narrative.
I spent the summer before law school getting to know the gentlemen in the video clip above, and found myself at a crossroad. I shared with Darryl, my internal struggle on whether I should embark on another academic journey into the ivory tower, or opt to "stay in the trenches" with them. They had strongly advised that I go to law school. Darryl had told me,"Diana, you need to go, so you can use what you learn to help people like us." I took his words to heart, and now I find myself hearing the echo of his powerful statement shared in the video:
"I don't want to survive, I want to thrive. We need to get out of where we are, if that's what we want. I don't want to die here."
As I reflect on my past, the children at the shelter, Darryl and his friends, and my most recent experiences with my own father, I feel a strong desire to continue this project.
I know I have the heart to see this through, and the skills to produce a compelling photo book.
I will accomplish my goals by:
- (1) publishing a photo book
- (2) hold an exhibition
- (3) collaborate with community members and organizations to stimulate public policy discussions.
The $10,000 pledge goal will go towards funding photographic equipment and software, equipment maintenance, purchasing of rewards for donors, CARE Medical History Bracelets to hold important documentation/ID for subjects, prints and frames for the exhibition, copies of The Homeless Paradise, helping to offset a portion of my living expenses, and travel expenses to the neighbor-islands for potential subjects.
I am confident in undertaking this task. My past work has been published in the HONOLULU Magazine, I have freelanced for the Associated Press, the New York Times, Sporting News Magazine, and the Newsweek Magazine. I have collaborated with the State of Hawai`i's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education team, and the University of Hawai`i at Manoa's Office of Public Health Studies for photographic and design work.
Thank you for supporting me in my dream to use photography for social change, and in raising awareness on the issues I care about most! You can follow my progress on The Homeless Paradise FACEBOOK PAGE.
Awards & Grants:
- Patsy T. Mink Legislative Fellowship (2013)
- University of Hawai` Excellence in Teaching Nominee (2013)
- Outstanding Student Award for Office of Public Health Studies (2011)
- AlohaCare Health Sciences Scholarship (2007-2009)
- Excellence in Journalism Awards, Board of Publications (2005-2006)
- Hawai`i Association of Broadcasters Scholarship (2003-2004)
- Diana Kim website: http://www.dianakimphotography.com
- The Homeless Paradise Blog: http://www.homelessparadise.com
- The Homeless Paradise Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/homelessparadise
- Hawaii Public Radio: August 27, 2014: Homeless Father
- Hawaii Public Radio: November 26, 2014: Homeless Father
Risks and challenges
This is a work in progress and success largely depends on building trust and relationships with individuals over a period of time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)