The Words of the Owens Family

Memoirs of Photographing True Father

Ken Owens
July 4, 2013

For thirty-two years, I was truly and humbly blessed of being able to photograph our True Parents, both their public and private lives. Beginning in 1980, with the help of Robert Davis, Hiromichi Shimoyama and New Future Photo, I was able to see our True Father as being the most serious, determined, wisest, loving and funniest man I have ever met. In those thirty-two years, I have so many wonderful and yet, sometimes nervous moments with True Father.

From the very beginning, I helped photograph many of the great events, speaking tours and conferences that True Father organized: from the ICUS conferences with scientific scholars centered on Absolute Values; to religious conferences, such as the Assembly of the World's Religions and American Christian Leadership Conference, bringing together not only religious scholars, but leaders from many of the world's religions to discuss the unity of religious harmony, something that no other man has been unable to do on such a world-wide level. On the political level, True Father invited presidents, vice-presidents and prime ministers from dozens of the world's nations to the Summit Council, discussing the solutions to world problems centering on God. When he would speak to the world's educators and professors, such as the Professors World Peace Academy, True Father would guide them into ideas they had never thought of before, systematically and undeniable. True Father guided the Middle East Peace Initiative trips to Rome, Israel and Jordan, bringing the world together to help bring the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to a peaceful resolution. And, very historically, achieving the ceremony that crowned Jesus as the King of Kings.

At each of these events, True Father would speak to all the participants as if he were speaking to each one of them personally, inspiring them centering on his revelation of the Divine Principle. Sometimes, he would look at a small piece of paper containing the important points he wanted to share with his guests. All the participants, no matter how educated, powerful or well known, they would sit there quietly, spell-bound, listening and understanding every word True Father said. No matter how many times I photograph these events, my admiration and awe towards True Father would continue to deepen my heart towards him.

But, there were times that I was nervous for our True Parents safety. The most nervous time was when a group of us were going to go with True Parents into North Korea to visit Kim Il Sung. When we arrived in Beijing, we were told that the North Koreans only wanted the Korean contingent to enter the country with True Parents. True Father told us that he didn't know what to expect, and that he may not be coming back. The rest of us who stayed behind in Beijing were very worried for them. When they did return a week later, they were so happy leaving the plane, a slight snowfall sprinkled upon them. That night, we all sat on the floor of the hotel room and True Father, with a great big smile, showed us many of the photos that he brought back from North Korea.

Another nervous time was at Yankee Stadium in 1976. The situation had become almost dangerous, but True Father still had to make his speech. I was assisting the main photographer, Michael Brownlee, out in the stage area. President Salonen told me to follow behind True Father and Dr. Bo Hi Pak out to the stage as extra security. All went well, but it was a very scary moment.

I was also able to photograph many matchings and blessings that True Parents performed. Whatever nationality the participants were from, I could see True Father matching people truly from God's eyes and heart! At the blessing ceremonies, you can see the sparkle of love in each of the couple's eyes! Only True Father can see and feel true love in each person and what great people their children would become.

The First time I visited East Garden actually came by accident. It was at a Sunday Service at Belvedere and it was Young Jin Nim's birthday. True Mother had gone back to East Garden to make sure all the arrangements were made for the birthday celebration. Ye Jin Nim stayed behind till True Father finished his speech. At the end, True Father said, "Oh, today is my son's birthday…you are all invited!" Ye Jin Nim's mouth opened in shock. She immediately called True Mother saying "Omma, guess what Appa did! He just invited all 200 members to East Garden for the birthday!" What did True Mother do? She had McDonald's make lunches for all who came.

Finally, I had many personal experiences with True Father, like the first time I saw him in Hawaii, he had a bright glow around him. At the great Madison Square Garden speech in 1974, it was so chaotic in the beginning that True Father asked if he could sing a song. The audience quieted down to listen to him sing a beautiful Korean song. And, having the honor to accompany True Parents on their small plane during their 50 State Tour in America. Being that close to them every day was a blessing, very hard work, but a great blessing.

While visiting Rio de Janeiro with True Parents and In Jin Nim in the 1990s, we stopped at a beach. True Father saw a fisherman, who was wearing a very small, almost visible bathing suit, casting into the ocean. Father went to him, and through a translator, was able to cast a few times into the ocean. So, there was True Father, with his pants rolled up to his knees and his bare feet in the ocean, standing with a big smile alongside a scanty-clad fisherman, fishing on the beach in sunny Rio!

The first time I went fishing in Alaska, I was on one of the boats, camera at the ready, and I caught a small halibut. Then, the radio from Father's boat called out that Father was hungry for a snack and asking for halibut. Well, we moved over to his boat, gave them my fish and that's what Father had for his snack!

It was during this time that True Father and I had a silent signal between us. Since he was at hundreds of public functions, and there were always photographers and video cameras to record him, sometimes his tie would be crooked. So, I would catch his eye, and motion with my hand up and down signaling him that his tie was crooked. He would give a small smile, and straighten his tie.

One nice memory happened during True Parents' wedding anniversary. During the ceremony, I would take a portrait of True Parents. Just before I took their picture, I said: "Ah, beautiful honeymooners!" And True Father answered quickly: "YES, honeymoonerrrrrs!" Everyone laughed. True Parents were so happy. During a break, True Parents asked me to come upstairs to take their passport photos. True Mother had given True Father a brand new jacket. So, she asked me to photograph them out on the balcony that overlooks the Hudson River. Afterwards, they asked me to sit with them, including Hyung Jin Nim and Jeung Jin Nim for a snack. It was a very quiet, very personal time with True Parents. It was very special.

During Kwon Jin Nim and Sun Jin Nim's Holy Blessing in 1995, after the main ceremony, I had to do the various portraits of the brides and grooms with True Parents and the In-laws. Manhattan Center arranged that instead of a ladder, I would climb up a shaky scaffolding to get a better angle for the photos. True Father wanted to make it a joyous experience, and seeing me on top of this scary place, he yelled: "Dance!" Well, carrying my camera and with hundreds of people in attendance, I began shaking and dancing on top of this moving object. Everyone was laughing and clapping and True Parents had big smiles on their faces. No one knew that even though I had a big smile, how scared I was dancing for True Parents at that moment.

Most importantly, I would see how much love he had for True Mother, his children, and the members who followed him for so many years. Even though he didn't see his children as much as he wanted, he loved them very dearly. I had a dream in which True Father sat on a balcony with thousands of people watching. He was holding his brand new son. He would play with him and when he put him in the air, the people would cheer with great applause. This happened many times. A few hours after I woke up, True Mother gave birth to Hyung Jin Nim.

The most difficult moment I had to photograph True Parents was during Heung Jin Nim's Seunghwa ceremony at Belvedere. Robert and I thought True Parents had gone to Korea for the ceremony, but when I arrived at Belvedere, they were sitting on the floor next to the Offering Table. It was a very emotional time, quiet and somber. True Mother and the daughters had tears in their eyes. Seeing True Mother's face close up with a telephoto lens was heart-wrenching. True Father said he couldn't shed any tears during the ceremony for special reasons. But, when I looked through the lens, I could see a sparkle of tear in the corner of his eye. I had to record the event, but it was very painful see them so sad. It was very difficult to see through the lens with tears in my eyes.

When True Father spoke to members, he would be very serious in conveying God's heart and the Divine Principle to help members understand. But, sometimes he even scolded them, so they can become better people. And many times, he would tell many jokes to see them happy. But, his love for us never changed. He wanted all of us to do our best.

Through the years, I came to realize that True Father was more than a leader, or even the Messiah. I came to feel him to be my real father, my real parent.

I had a revelation from God in 1976 about how we should feel about True Father.

God expressed his heart by saying: "Now, my son is with you. Only he can show you how my heart really feels. He knows me so well, because he knows how I feel, and how all of you feel. Please look to him, please listen to him, please feel him. You see him, you see me. You hear him, you hear me. You feel him, you feel me. You cry with him, you cry with me. He is your father. You are his children. But, I am his Father, so all of you are my children."

Photographing our True Parents for so many years was a great honor and privilege. But, my greatest joy is that I was able to make our True Father happy, especially when I said "Smile Please" in my funny Korean.

Thank you! True Father! 

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