This story is about how one photo first led to a photographer’s triumph and then became an unbearable burden, under the weight of which he was forced to cross the line between life and death. In the early spring of 1993, Kevin Carter came to Sudan. Throughout his creative career, he had to shoot sensational, but often horrifying scenes, which are terrible to watch even on the photo, and it is even more terrible to see such things by own eyes.
The photography project on environmental disasters made in Sudan became decisive in his career and life. The most famous photo is telling a story about a dying little girl. He shot scenes of hunger in a small village in the framework of this task.
According to some information, another South African photojournalist Joao Silva said that he and Carter went to the Sudan together with the United Nations. UN representatives gave them 30 minutes for shooting after the food arrived. Toward evening Kevin was tired of filming and decided to rest and leaves the village.
He went out into the field and heard a quiet cry. There lay a small, very thin girl who was dying of hunger. The girl’s parents at that time were busy unloading the plane with humanitarian aid and briefly left the haggard child alone.
He wanted to take a picture of the girl when suddenly a vulture landed behind her. It is a bird-predator, feeding on carrion of all kinds. Carter slowly approached the girl, trying not to frighten off the bird, chose a good camera angle, so that both the child and the vulture were in focus, and took several pictures.
Then the photographer waited for a while the vulture spread its wings to make a few more shots. But the predator did not move, and Kevin simply drove the bird away. There is information that the girl in the meantime, apparently, gained strength and crawled on. Then the photographer sat down near the tree and began to cry. One of the photographer’s friends found him crying late in the evening, surrounded by numerous cigarette butts. Carter told him that the only thing he wants is to hug his daughter.
The photo story was sold to the New York Times. At that time, the hunger in Sudan was a very urgent topic, and the photograph of a dying Sudanese girl became a true symbol of hunger in Africa. Newspapers from around the world began to reprint this photo, put it on the front page. It was a real triumph. There was also a downside to the coin.
Photojournalist began to suffer from quite serious depression. During his entire career, he saw murders, executions, famine, and corpses. And then the public began to press the question, which after the award was picked up by the media: what happened to that girl? Kevin had nothing to respond. Later, Kevin told his friends that he regrets that he did not help the girl: there was a camp of the United Nations where hungry people were able to receive help. But it was too late.
Newspapers no longer called him a genius photographer. The pressure of the public, coupled with problems in his personal life and drugs, as well as the death of a friend, was the last straw for him. For this project, he received the Pulitzer Prize – one of the most prestigious awards in the US in the field of literature, journalism, music, and theater, and ended his life by suicide four months later.
This photo can be viewed from several perspectives. Of course, the photographer could help the girl, could take her to the camp, but did not do it. But the real problem has much more serious reasons. This is a social and even a philosophical photograph, it shows a transitional moment between life and death, and the chances are not equal here. Moreover, this is the approaching death of a child, and there were thousands of such children in the entire Sudan. Is it fair to accuse Carter that he did not help this girl? Maybe, on the contrary, it was worthwhile to send social forces to help? He showed the problem, and really caring people had to react to solve it, rather than blaming one person for the troubles of the whole country. The problem of hunger is closely intertwined with the problem of the backwardness of the Third World countries. Like other branches of material production, the agriculture of most developing countries does not even closely match the scientific and technical level of the world economy at the end of the 20th century. Simultaneously the problem of hunger is global; it expects the planet, and not just a single country already in the short term. Carter was brave enough to say this to the whole world, but in return received only reproaches in his address, which was the reason for his premature death.