Saturday, January 22, 2011

The legacy of Kevin Carter

The saddest image which won 1994 Pulitzer Prize
Kevin Carter was a South African photojournalist, who born and grew up in a middle class family. He observed the worst ever racial discrimination and brutal killing of South African blacks during apartheid period. He could never get settled as a pharmacist, soldier and an air man. He kept changing his priorities until he decided to become a photojournalist. This was the start of a suffering-filled-career which would led him to death, the first experience of suffering to the Carter arrived when he captured the first ever photograph of a public execution through necklacing during last years of apartheid.
In 1993, He went to Sudan to cover the devastating famine and filmed the photograph which brought immense fame and life taking notoriety for this brave young man. The photograph showed a minor girl creeping slowly towards a food camp and a vulture seen in the background waiting her to die so that she could eat her up. According to some sources he waited 20 minutes to get best possible angle of the picture and finally succeeded. The picture first appeared in New York Times on March 27, 1993 and shaken the so-called civilized world. Afterwards the front pages of most prestigious newspapers and magazines published the photo which brought Kevin to the heights of fame. The Picture won the most prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography on May 23, 1994.
Many people questioned his approach of filming a dying girl instead of helping her to survive and this become a hot debate in next few weeks. The circumstances which were witnessed by Carter and the criticism brought depression and anxiety to Him. He survived the worst attacks by killers, he survived worst shocks of seeing and picturing dead but he could not survive the pressure from inner self, fell prey to depression and committed suicide on 27 July 1994. According to Times he wrote in his suicide note
"I am depressed ... without phone ... money for rent ... money for child support ... money for debts ... money!!! ... I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners...I have gone to join Ken [recently deceased colleague Ken Oosterbroek] if I am that lucky."
There were a number of factors which add to the reasons of his suicide but the main reason was depression, anxiety and notoriety which he earned for his works. I always admired the man for his contribution towards the photojournalism and bringing out the real face of the so-called civilized nations. He was an admirable figure, who should be respected and lauded for his contribution towards journalism.
This picture and story of Kevin Carter signify two different aspect of life. One is related to the poor old masses and the other to the journalists and media men. Sudan and many other African states are still facing the life threatening famines and civil wars; as a result thousands of people have either been killed or humiliated every day. These wars and turmoil’s are not natural phenomena instead the so-called civilized states are a root cause of the sufferings of poor people all over the world specially the poor African belt. We are facing another colonial oppression from USA and other allied forces who want to engulf the resources of poor but resourceful countries. The UN oil for food program is a direct example of what these powers want to do with the third world countries, giving food to the poor in return of oil (isn’t it a joke). Second lesson is for us Pakistani’s. We always complain about our status, law and order, lack of resources and unemployment etc. We never think of what we have. No matter how worst the circumstances have turned, we still have reason to be happy. We should thank God as we are not among those who starve to death and become the food of vultures. 
The other aspect of the image is journalistic, which needs a lot of discussion and explanation. I would shorten it in a few lines. I do not support the people who blamed Kevin for not helping the girl instead of shooting the snap. First in his presence the vulture would not have attacked her, secondly the outcome of the message attached with the picture was boundless, which brought a very positive change in the world (which should be measured). Lastly as a journalist his first and foremost duty was to tell the world the real situation of the famine-torn Sudan, which was best done with the image which won Pulitzer award for him. Saving the life of a girl is definitely more important but we have to accept some bitter realities of life (God forbid). I read somewhere that Kevin went straight to his home from Sudan to meet his beloved daughter, he might have some guilt and regret but the service he did for starving and poor Africans would never be forgotten.


Thinking said...

hmm....what a depress picture and what marvelous narration you gave in your topic....

This is exactly what I always preach to all the fellow countrymen that we still have so much to be merry of....Allah ka shukar.

Nice topic.

Urooj Malik said...

Sir Peerless, thank you for writing and reminding some bitter realities and on the other hand blessings that we still have as Pakistanis.

Thank you as its always nice to read your writing.

Shahid Majeed said...

This picture always made me sad, in fact it is the most powerful image I have ever been exposed to. Thanks a lot for your feedback.

Shahid Majeed said...

Thanks a lot for reading such a random writing, it is a wonderful experience to have you around. It is an honor as well as a pride for me. Thanks again

Shari said...

I may agree with you that what Kevin did was right in some prospective but I just can't shake this feeling off my head that he could have given help to young child instead. I just can't make up my mind and I can't understand weather he did right or wrong.