Power of Photography
In 1993, a little known South African photographer visited a famine stricken Sudan to cover the civil war there. The disturbing scenes of despair could be seen all around. People were madly scurrying for eatables brought by UN agencies. The race to the feeding camps was so intense that men and women, leaving there fledgling kids on ground, ran, lest they be left behind.
The photographer, in the mean time was moving around looking for and capturing the miseries of mankind. Nearly a kilometer away from the camp, he saw a starving girl child crawling towards the feeding center. As he set himself up to photograph her, a Vulture descended in the background anticipating the dying child to be a prey. Careful not to disturb the bird, the photographer positioned himself for the best possible shot. He waited for 20 minutes hoping that the predator may spread its wings for a more dramatic imagery. The Vulture, at the same time, was waiting for the child to die.
The bird had more patience, the man had not. It did not spread its wings. After the image was captured, he chased the bird away and sat under a tree to watch the tiny girl resume her struggle. He then lit a cigarette, talked to God and felt like hugging his daughter back home.
The next day this man returned to Johannesburg, his place of birth. Incidentally, New York Times was looking for pictures of Sudan. His photograph was bought by them and it appeared on 26 March, 1993 for the first time in print. People all around the globe wrote and called up the times to inquire about the child and to know why did the photographer not offer help. For many people he became a villain, an emotionless and inhuman being. The paper reported that no one knew whether the little girl reached the feeding center. The sensitive photo from a so called insensitive photographer was reproduced in newspapers and journals across the world. It soon became an icon of Africa’s anguish and despair.
A year later this picture won the the Pulitzer prize in feature photograph category and the man wasn’t any more a little known photographer. He was now Kevin Carter. The famed and acclaimed Kevin Carter. And the image captured by him has since become a “metaphor for Africa’s despair.” Carter was gratified and buoyed at his feat and was complimented by friends, family and colleagues at his remarkable accomplishment.
But a section continued to hurl accusations upon him of selling human miseries and being insensitive. Barely three months after winning the Pulitzer prize, disturbed and hounded by allegations, agony and despair, Kevin Carter, 33, ended his life by committing suicide. He wrote in his suicide note, “I’m really really sorry. The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy doesn’t exist.”
The St. Petersburg Times in Florida said this of Kevin: “The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering, might just as well be a Predator, another Vulture on the scene.”
Carter’s daughter Megan responded to the widespread criticism, “I see my dad as the suffering child. And the rest of world as the Vulture.”