Friday, 29 June 2012

Pulitzer Prize-winning South African photojournalist who committed suicide in 1994

      In March 1993, while on a trip to Sudan, Kevin Carter was preparing to photograph a starving toddler trying to reach a feeding center when a vulture landed nearby. Carter reported to taking the picture, because it was his "job title", and leaving. 

            He came under criticism for failing to help the girl. The St. Petersburg Times in Florida said this of Carter: "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.

       The photograph first appeared on March 26, 1993, having been sold to the New York Times  Hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask the fate of the girl. The paper reported that it was unknown whether she had managed to reach the feeding center. In 1994, the photograph won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography. 

             On 27 July 1994 Carter drove to the Braamfontein Spruit 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 cxarbon monoxide poisoning aged 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 Oosterbroek (recently deceased colleague) if I am that lucky". 


  1. I remember seeing that photo as a young boy in 1994. It was horrific and dreadful, yet it perfectly explained the sad, sad, sad situation in Sudan and the developing world at large.

    I wish we could all consciously assist the suffering around the world. Though no one should take his/ her own life, because there is always forgiveness and hope from mistakes.

  2. A sad and poignant reminder of our role in this world....and the significance of our balance between 'Tasks' and 'Responsibilities' .... While it may have been his task to take the shots of the suffering, it was his responsibility as a human being to help alleviate that same suffering. In turn, years later in his broke days, he would have had the profoundly meaningful experience and memory to carry him through that period.
    Such is life...we live and we learn

    1. Sure, this was a huge lesson to the journalistic world not to overlook at the importance of following the human conscience at all costs. I hope and believe that journalism has improved in a way that professionals persist to be participants in contributing change to societies, wherever they're located.