Famous Photo of the Month

starving-child-and-vulture

Starving Child and Vulture by Kevin Carter

Last year I read The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War an autobiographical book by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva about themselves, James Nachtwey and Kevin Carter a group of four South African photographers active within the townships of  South Africa during the apartheid period. Kevin Carter knew the image  of death. As a member of this group of photographers who chronicled apartheid-­era South Africa, he had seen more than his share. In 1993 he flew to Sudan to photograph the famine racking that land. Exhausted after a day of taking pictures in the village of Ayod, he headed out into the open bush. There he heard whimpering and came across an emaciated toddler who had collapsed on the way to a feeding center. As he took the child’s picture, a plump vulture landed nearby. Carter had reportedly been advised not to touch the victims because of disease, so instead of helping, he spent 20 minutes waiting in the hope that the stalking bird would open its wings. It did not. Carter scared the creature away and watched as the child continued toward the center. He then lit a cigarette, talked to God and wept. The New York Times ran the photo, and readers were eager to find out what happened to the child—and to criticize Carter for not coming to his subject’s aid. His image quickly became a wrenching case study in the debate over when photographers should intervene. Subsequent research seemed to reveal that the child did survive yet died 14 years later from malarial fever. Carter won a Pulitzer for his image, but the darkness of that bright day never lifted from him. In July 1994 he took his own life, writing, “I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain.”

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