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 “.


Somaasri said...

Hi Arun,

As we discussed, any media professional has to be social worker first.Only then he can be a good professional. Media is powerful medium. It should be more of service than to sell the same.Media can change the entire political situation.Handle it in proper way you will see a drastic change in the country.

Cockroach said...

Yea u r right Soma. Media job is more of a mission than a source of income.

Enigma said...

i know that pic is depressing....saw a series oh such pictures which make u wonder abt life...

Cockroach said...

U r rite Kel. Rathare than just being an interesting pic, the backgroud info on it disturbed the mind. Especially we bing in communication industry. Ethics are some Qn freqently asked to ourself.

navneet said...

Well, I dont have an answer. However, I must say the whole post is absolutely amazing for me. Also the fact that we are working together in the same group is a reinforcement to me that I am with people like you, cockroach. This is really a great post and I must admit, it is forcing me to think. Think about all that doesnt make sense, think about the right-wrong perspectives carried by innumerable people, think about the differences created by human greed in the society where power is most of the times, or rather always been misused!
Thanks for forcing me to think. However suicide is not really an option anyway - I wrote a poem long back which says like

Everytime Everywhere
incliration to Run Away
and shun Reality
pushed me closer to my doom -
It was only when I stood up to the winds
Standing in front
I found I have more than I thought

Cockroach said...

Thanks Navneet.

In fact, I must thank you for gettin me back to the habit of writing. Further to the post, u r rite. Many a times I had this feeling that in the name of passion I also being materialistic and selfish...

Thanks for dropin in. Btwn I liked the poem.

Warm regards,

Meghna said...

Hi Arun,
Great blog! This post made me think! The pic was certainly depressing but the man was inspiring!

Cockroach said...

Thanks dear. But I don't take him inspiring, to suicide. He would have made good use of his life.

sansmerci said...

i have thought bout this a million times when i used to work on certain projects esp the sensitive ones i do remember a situation where i was really caught up being a good human or doing well in my project ... i think we can do justice to both ... thats the whole talent of being a media professional .. else u can either become a social worker or a writer/studio fotographer ... media has social responsibility i think thats the bottom line.

Pointblank said...

U had me for a minute bose! But tat was a lovely and profound post. We need more original pieces like this! Kudos man! keep writing! :(

Cockroach said...


U r rite. The talent of the media guy is to place such an incident in the right platform to communicate it to the public, at the same time giving the sufferer his helping hand. But running away from reality would be the biggest sin, for the media professional as well as the humanitarian.

Thanks Pointblank...

Being a media professional is of any meaning only when I could trigger a few thoughts like this. Now this would definetely continue.

Warm Regards,