Kevin Carter

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Kevin Carter (September 13, 1960 in JohannesburgJuly 27, 1994) was an award-winning South African photojournalist and member of the Bang-Bang Club.

Carter had started to work as weekend sports photographer in 1983. In 1984 he moved on to work for the Johannesburg Star, bent on exposing the brutality of apartheid.

Carter was the first to photograph a public execution by "necklacing" in South Africa in the mid-1980s. He later spoke of the images; "I was appalled at what they were doing. I was appalled at what I was doing. But then people started talking about those pictures... then I felt that maybe my actions hadn't been at all bad. Being a witness to something this horrible wasn't necessarily such a bad thing to do."[1]


[edit] Prize-winning photograph in Sudan

In March 1993 Carter made a trip to southern Sudan. The sound of soft, high-pitched whimpering near the village of Ayod attracted Carter to a young emaciated Sudanese toddler. The girl had stopped to rest while struggling to a feeding center, whereupon a vulture had landed nearby. He said that he waited about 20 minutes, hoping that the vulture would fly off. It didn't. Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away [2]. However, he also came under heavy criticism for just photographing — and not helping — the little girl:

"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."[3]

The photograph was sold to The New York Times where it appeared for the first time on March 26, 1993. Practically overnight hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask whether the child had survived, leading the newspaper to run a special editor's note saying the girl had enough strength to walk away from the vulture, but that her ultimate fate was unknown.

On April 2, 1994 Nancy Buirski, a foreign New York Times picture editor, phoned Carter to inform him he had won the most coveted prize for photography. Carter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography on May 23, 1994 at Columbia University's Low Memorial Library.

[edit] Alternative account of the photograph

South African photojournalist Joao Silva, who accompanied Carter to Sudan, gave a different version of events in an interview with Japanese journalist and writer Akio Fujiwara that was published in Fujiwara's book The Boy who Became a Postcard (Ehagakini Sareta Shōnen).

According to Silva, they (Carter and Silva) went to Sudan with the United Nations aboard Operation Lifeline Sudan and landed in Southern Sudan on March 11, 1993. The UN told them that they would take off again in 30 minutes (the time necessary to distribute food), so they ran around looking to take shots. The UN started to distribute corn and the women of the village came out of their wooden huts to meet the plane. Silva went looking for guerrilla fighters, while Carter strayed no more than a few dozen feet from the plane.

Again according to Silva, Carter was quite shocked as it was the first time that he had seen a famine situation and so he took many shots of the children suffering from famine. Silva also started to take photos of children on the ground as if crying, which were not published. The parents of the children were busy taking food from the plane so they had left their children only briefly while they collected the food. This was the situation for the girl in the photo taken by Carter. A vulture landed behind the girl. To get the two in focus, Carter approached the scene very slowly so as not to scare the vulture away and took a photo from approximately 10 metres. He took a few more photos and then the vulture flew off.

[edit] Death

On 27 July 1994 Carter drove to the Braamfonteinspruit river, near the Field and Study Centre, an area where he used to play as a child, and took his own life by taping one end of a hose to his pickup truck’s exhaust pipe and running the other end to the passenger-side window. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning at the age of 33. Portions of Carter's suicide note read:

"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 if I am that lucky."[4]

[edit] In popular culture

  • The Welsh band Manic Street Preachers recorded a song about him on their 1996 album Everything Must Go.
  • There is a song 'Kevin Carter' on the 1996 album of Martin Simpson and Jessica Ruby Simpson, Band of Angels, which is a mainly factual, minimalist, and informative ballad.
  • Poets and Madmen by heavy metal band Savatage is a loose concept-album based around a fictitious investigation of his legacy.
  • Mark Danielewski's novel House of Leaves has a character very similar to Carter. The story mentions a photo similar to Carter's Pulitzer Prize-winning image, with footnotes directly referencing Carter and his suicide.
  • Masha Hamilton's 2004 novel The Distance Between Us mentions Kevin Carter and is dedicated to "Kevin Carter and journalists everywhere who put their bodies and their souls on the line to cover war."
  • Chilean born visual artist Alfredo Jaar presented the story of Kevin Carter and his Pullitzer Prize-winning photograph in the work The Sound of Silence, a cinematic video installation presented in his Politics of the Image exhibition at the South London Gallery in 2008. The narration goes on to tell about the life of the photograph after the death of its author.
  • In 2009, he will be played by Taylor Kitsch in the film version of The Bang Bang Club

[edit] References

  1. ^ First draft by Tim Porter: Covering war in a free society
  2. ^ BBC- h2g2 - Kevin Carter - Photojournalist
  3. ^ The life and death of Kevin Carter: "Visiting Sudan, a little-known photographer took a picture that made the world weep. What happened afterward is a tragedy of another sort."
  4. ^ Photographer haunted by horror of his work
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