Kevin Carter is the author of a photo that has become a symbol of an emaciated continent: for “The vulture and the little girl”, the member of the famous Bang Bang Club was awarded the 1994 Pulitzer Prize. A few weeks later, Carter is dead.
In April 1994, 14 months after capturing that memorable scene, Carter walked up to the dais in the classical rotunda of Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library and received the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. The South African soaked up the attention.
What was the occasion?
A monumental photo from Sudan, March 1993.
A starved little girl crouches on the floor of the Sudanese steppe, watched by a vulture that just seems to be waiting for the child to stop moving.
This photo of Kevin Carter’s photo was published in the New York Times on March 26th.
What happens after Kevin Carter’s photo is published in the New York Times on March 26th far exceeds any hope of donation aid.
It becomes a symbol of an independent continent, donations reach unimagined heights, hardly a humanitarian appeal for donations in the following years gets along without this motif.
Shortly after the picture appeared, the newspaper received numerous questions about the girl’s further fate. The Times slips an editor’s note, which can be summed up as follows: We don’t know anything more precise.
Kevin Carter himself reports that the little one has regenerated and found her way back to the village a few minutes after being admitted.
Critics accuse Kevin Carter of failing to provide assistance. Others go a little further: the real vulture was lurking on the other side of the viewfinder.
Even some of Carter’s friends wondered aloud why he had not helped the girl.
Carter was painfully aware of the photojournalist’s dilemma. “I had to think visually,” he said once, describing a shoot-out.
“I am zooming in on a tight shot of the dead guy and a splash of red. Going into his khaki uniform in a pool of blood in the sand.
My God.!! But it is time to work. Deal with the rest later. If you can’t do it, get out of the game.
Every photographer who has been involved in these stories has been affected. You become changed forever. Nobody does this kind of work to make themselves feel good. It is very hard to continue.”
The following year, in April 1994, Kevin Carter received the Pulitzer Prize.
The award does not silence the criticism, on the contrary: Carter is accused of having exploited the girl’s suffering for his fame as a photographer.
In the same month, his friend and work colleague Ken Oosterbroek was fatally wounded during an operation in South Africa.
A few weeks later, on July 27, 1994, Kevin Carter was also dead. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning, he gas himself to death. It was suicide.
In his suicide note, he wrote among other things … “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 . . .”
Information: It was not until 2011 that Spanish journalists managed to locate the family. It turned out that the little girl was really a boy. Kong Nyong, the boy’s name, died in 2007, just of legal age, with malarian fever.
And I mean…The Kevin Carter case is very interesting for us animal rights activists because we often get the same moral accusations from others who only hear about animal suffering while they are sitting in front of their television.
We are also often accused of “only” documenting as if we had promised to save all animals in the world and have betrayed this mission.
When undercover videos come from laboratories or stables, it is a reason for many people to blame why the animal rights activists did not rescue or take the animals away.
We, in our struggle for the animal’s rights, are also “haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain” that we experience every day through the videos (or often life, in actions), which we have to endure only with good nerves if we want to fulfill our mission.
And our mission is objective information, education, documents of the truth about animal suffering, and the crime it causes.
In our private life, it burdens us very much that most people can only criticize, reproach, give advice.
If all of these would actively participate in our struggle, then today there would be no more or fewer pictures of dying children, suffering animals, and injustice in the world.
Kavin Carter paid for his guilty conscience with his suicide. It was a mistake to do so, after all, he was responsible for documenting the suffering in Sudan and making it known around the world.
The billions of people who drove him to suicide with their criticism did not tell us what kind of humane aid they provided to Sudan.
This is a lesson for us animal rights activists: we should know our limits, must remain active, and not expose ourselves to the risk of breaking under the moral pressure that we get every day from a vulture society.
My best regards to all, Venus