Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Suicide Note

"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 & corpses & anger & pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners..."
This is the suicide note of Pulitzer Prize (Feature Photography) Winner South African photojournalist, Kevin Carter (September 13, 1960 – July 27, 1994).

A few weeks back while having a quick coffee in office canteen I and friend Shanmugavel had an interesting debate.

Shan asked me what I would do if some social injustice is happening on someone and if I’m the only one there to help him….Will I save him or will I let it happen so that I can photograph it and communicate it to others to show that such incidents occur in front of our eyes. His question was whether I would be a professional communicator or a humanitarian at that moment.

Taking a closer look, this is one question that lurks around a media professional when ever he or she has to face such an incident. Unlike others he needs to perform two tasks. He has to be a responsible communicator as well as a social worker.

Now getting back to Carter’s life,

In 1993, on a trip to Sudan’s worst Famine affected areas, Carter found a girl crawling towards a food camp, located a kilometer away. When the girl stopped for a while to rest, a vulture landed nearby. Later he said that he waited about 20 minutes, hoping that the vulture would spread its wings, so that he get a catchy-stunning visual. But it didn't. However, Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away.

The New York Times brought this pic, where it appeared for the first time on March 26, 1993 and hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask whether the child had survived. In fact they had 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.

Kevin Carter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography on May 23, 1994 at Columbia University's Low Memorial Library.

This made many communication guys wonder whether there is any difference between the photographer and the vulture on than space.

“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.”

Both the species, the vulture and the communicator, cared only of their hunger.
Kevin Carter was the first to photograph a public execution by "necklacing" in South Africa in the mid-1980s. He defined it in this way:
"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."

After reading about him I told this in my mind “Shan, Cartner’s suicide note is a precious gift for all media professionals. We had copied this note a million times, but hardly anyone is brave enough to take that last step taken by him “.