Friday, March 03, 2006

The death of Kevin Carter

In 1993, South African photojournalist Kevin Carter shot a moving and powerful photograph that showed the tragic effects of famine. In it, a young Sudanese girl has collapsed on the ground as she struggles to make it to a food center. In the background, a vulture sits, waiting for the child to die. The photo won Carter the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

Kevin Carter was one of four photojournalists that belonged to an unofficial group known as the "Bang Bang Club." Its members traveled throughout South Africa, using their cameras to document the unfair and inhumane practices of apartheid.

Carter captured some of the most dramatic moments on film and eventually his work began to take a heavy emotional toll on him. Two months after winning the Pulitzer, depressed and haunted by the images he so eloquently photographed, Carter committed suicide.

Twelve years after Carter's death, a new film seeks to tell his story. "The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club," is nominated this year for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary Short Subject category.

NPR's "News & Notes with Ed Gordon" recently featured an interview with the film's director,
Dan Krauss. Krauss, a former news photographer, says he had heard of the "photographer who had seen too much" and he was initially drawn to Carter by his desire to know what drove him to kill himself after "winning the holy grail of journalism." In a clip from the film Carter talks about his famous photo: "It may be difficult for people to understand, but as a photojournalist, my first instinct was to make the photograph. As soon as that job was done .... I felt completely devastated." (After taking the photograph, Carter had chased away the vulture and watched as the little girl continued her struggle to make it to the food center.)

You can learn more about Kevin Carter's life and death in an article from the September 12, 1994 issue of Time Magazine titled "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."


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