Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Starving Child in Sudan

"It's our moral duty to be concerned...towards humanity."

Kevin Carter - Pulitzer 1994

This photo is the "Pulitzer Prize" winning photo taken in 1994 during the Sudan famine. The picture depicts a famine stricken child crawling towards a United Nations food camp, located a kilometer away. The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat it. The internationally acclaimed photographer Kevin Carter captured this award winning shot and then chased away the vulture. The girl then resumed her trek to the UN feeding center. Afterwards, Carter told an interviewer, that he sat under a tree for a long time smoking cigarettes and crying.

This picture shocked the whole world. No one knows the fate of the girl child, including the photographer Kevin Carter who left the place as soon as the photograph was taken. 14 months after capturing that memorable scene, Carter received the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

With the Pulitzer, however, he had to deal not only with acclaim but also with the critical focus that comes with fame. Some journalists in South Africa are reported to have criticized his winning of the prize a "fluke," alleging that he had somehow set up the tableau. Others questioned his ethics. "The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering," said the St Petersburg (Florida)Times, "might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene." Even some of Carter's friends wondered aloud why he had not helped the girl.

Two months later he committed suicide due to depression, drugs, his relationship with his girlfriend was shaky, money problems and difficulties in making ends meet. Overwhelmed, Carter began talking openly about suicide. With no hope in sight Carter was found dead of carbon-monoxide poisoning inside his car in Johannesburg. "His red pickup truck was parked near a small river where he used to play as a child; a green garden hose attached to the vehicle's exhaust funneled the fumes inside."

"At around 9 p.m., Kevin Carter backed his red Nissan pickup truck against a blue gum tree at the Field and Study Center. He had played there often as a little boy. The Sandton Bird Club was having its monthly meeting there, but nobody saw Carter as he used silver gaffer tape to attach a garden hose to the exhaust pipe and run it to the passenger-side window. Wearing unwashed Lee jeans and an Esquire T shirt, he got in and switched on the engine. Then he put music on his Walkman and lay over on his side, using the knapsack as a pillow."Time Magazine

This was later found in his diary:
"Dear God, i promise i will never waste my food no matter how bad it can taste and how full i may be. I pray that He will protect this little boy, guide and deliver him away from his misery. I pray that we will be more sensitive towards the world around us and not be blinded by our own selfish nature and interests."

The suicide note he left behind , he wrote, he was "depressed ... without phone ... money for rent ... money for child support ... money for debts ... money!!! ... I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners..." And then this: "I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky."

The movie "The Death of Kevin Carter" was released in 2004 and nominated for the coveted Oscar awards and Emmy awards.

The Life and Death of Kevin Carter - Time Magazine
The Ultimate in Unfair by Flat


Ann (MobayDP) said...

This will come across as being harsh and judgmental and for that I apologise.

There is no way I would have been able to leave that place without trying my best to give that child a chance at life - no matter how futile my effort would be. If even to offer the babe some comfort in her last minutes of life. I suppose I can understand his desire as a photographer to take that picture, as it became the voice for the many suffering children who had died and who were dying.
But I do agree with the St. Petersburg Times. I cannot imagine having the frame of mind at that moment to be able to frame that picture so perfectly and then to leave that innocent little baby to die without one single ounce of comfort.

Papa Shongo said...

The first human reaction would be to chase the vulture away because I believe human beings are naturally wired to help...

luihamu said...

Afrikan Liz habari,
Picha hii nilipata kuiona zamani miaka hiyo,nakumbuka niliibandika chumbani na kila aliyekuwa akiiona alibaki mdomo wazi na kujiuliza maswali mengi.Nakumbuka picha hii pia niliibandika shuleni na mbele ya dawati langu na kuandika chini yake AFRIKA NAKULILIA AFRIKA.

Afrikan Liz,
Karibuni natarajia kuanda CULTURAL EVENT,sasa basi naomba picha za WAMAN'GATI kama unazo.


Kim said...

I remember this photo vividly. I didn't know of what befell the photographer. A big lesson for all of us! - we should first, love and think of "things" second.

Stephanie said...

Was this the 50,000th suffering child he had some across? maybe he felt that he could do nothing significant for the masses? Had he become accustomed to leaving starving children because there are just so many and what are you going to do? Perhaps he became accustomed to watching atrocities feeling helpless? How could he explain this to people that questioned him behind his back? That walking past them was something many people must have done hourly. He should have helped but don't judge him. He may have regretted his dicision later.

Anonymous said...

Yes Stephanie we will never know the reason the photographer left that child to suffer but I certainly don't see that many dying children in the area. He said, after that photo shoot he sat under a tree, smoked cigerettes, and cries. But wasn't that just a waste of precious time when he could have carries that poor girl a mere kilometer to a help centre? No matter how many dying children, if, God forbid I ever happened to be in a place of such horrors, I would have spent every ounce of energy in my body to help those around me even if it is to carry them around.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the author made up the part about the diary...