Photographer Haunted by Horror of His Work
Obituary: Kevin Carter 1960 – 1994
Johannesburg – Kevin Carter, the South African photographer whose image of a starving Sudanese toddler stalked by a vulture won him a Pulitzer Prize this year, was found dead on Wednesday night, apparently a suicide, police said yesterday. He was 33. The police said Mr Carter’s body and several letters to friends and family were discovered in his pick-up truck, parked in a Johannesburg suburb. An inquest showed that he had died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Mr Carter started as a sports photographer in 1983 but soon moved to the front lines of South African political strife, recording images of repression, anti-apartheid protest and fratricidal violence. A few davs after winning his Pulitzer Prize in April, Mr Carter was nearby when one of his closest friends and professional companions, Ken Oosterbroek, was shot dead photographing a gun battle in Tokoza township.
Friends said Mr Carter was a man of tumultuous emotions which brought passion to his work but also drove him to extremes of elation and depression. Last year, saying he needed a break from South Africa’s turmoil, he paid his own way to the southern Sudan to photograph a civil war and famine that he felt the world was overlooking.
His picture of an emaciated girl collapsing on the way to a feeding centre, as a plump vulture lurked in the background, was published first in The New York Times and The Mail & Guardian, a Johannesburg weekly. The reaction to the picture was so strong that The New York Times published an unusual editor’s note on the fate of the girl. Mr Carter said she resumed her trek to the feeding centre. He chased away the vulture.
Afterwards, he told an interviewer, he sat under a tree for a long time, “smoking cigarettes and crying”. His father, Mr Jimmy Carter laid last night: “Kevin always carried around the horror of the work he did.” – The New York Times
Source: Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 30 July 1994
What are the odds the little girl is alive today? Not very high, I’d say. If she is alive, what quality of life is she likely to have? She almost certainly has permanent damage from her period of starvation during crucial development, both before and after birth. It is easy to criticise Kevin Carter. Why? Because he took a photo of one starving child among thousands? Let those who send all their spare cash to the needy cast the first stone…