Remembering Kevin Carter

13 September 1960 - 27 July 1994 

Kevin Carter was a South African Photojournalist who, in March 1993, took the most infamous photograph, so far, of the brutality and disregard for human suffering in sub-Saharan Africa. 

(warning: pictures within this article may be disturbing to sensitive readers)

The photo shows a female Sudanese toddler, alone and severely emaciated, attempting to crawl to an aid station for food. A vulture is standing on the ground behind her, waiting for her to die so it can eat her.

When the picture gained international prominece people started asking what had happened to the girl. It emerged that Carter had done nothing to help the girl. He received heaps pf criticism for his “inhumane” actions. 

Carter defended himself and  claimed that he waited 20 minutes for the vulture to spread its wings, which he thought would make a better picture, and when it didn’t, he took the picture as is. For those 20 minutes, the toddler had to rest before resuming its trip. 

He said he took the picture, scared the vulture away, then left the girl to continue crawling on her own. 
To this day no one knows what became of the Sudanese girl, but the picture remains one of the most powerful images of our time. It earned the South African photojournalist a Pulitzer Prize and was features in world renowned publications such as The New York Times. 

On 27 July 1994 Carter drove to the Braamfontein Spruit river, near the Field and Study Centre, an area where he used to play as a child, and took his own life by taping one end of a hose to his pickup truck’s exhaust pipe and running the other end to the passenger-side window. 

He died of carbon monoxide poisoning, aged 33. He had spiraled into a depression, to which many things were a factor, his vocation as a photojournalist in 1980s Africa is believed to be a huge part of it.

Though he will forever be remembered by that harrowing picture and the fact that he committed suicide 14 months after winning the highest accolade in his field of art, Carter played an important role in ending Apartheid in South Africa through his craft. 

Carter and his friends Ken Oosterbroek, Greg Marinovich, and Joao Silva longed to expose the brutality of Apartheid to the world. They captured the violence of South Africa so vividly that a Johannesburg magazine Living dubbed them "The Bang-Bang Club." The title stuck. 

The movie The Bang Bang Club starring Ryan Phillippe was made in their honor. Carter's friend and fellow photographer Ken Oosterbroek was killed just few months before his suicide in the line of fire while they were covering the outbreak of violence in Tokowa.

In his suicide note he wrote:
"I'm really, really sorry. The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist...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... I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky." 
His memory and contribution to ending oppression and exposing the suffering of Africans by exposing it to the world with his pictures lives on!


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