Dilemma In Photo Journalism Essay

1750 words - 7 pages

In March of 1993, South African photographer, Kevin Carter, snapped a photograph of an extremely malnourished child in Sudan. In this picture, the child's ribs are exposed and she is crouched in the fetal position. The story of the photograph paled in comparison to the demand for information regarding Carters involvement before and after capturing the image. The unique context of Carter's photo raises a number of different points and questions in regards to photojournalism. First, what is the role of the photographer when he or she is capturing these controversial images? What kind of political and social action can a photographer expect? Secondly, the issue of duress and emotional unrest endured by the photographer’s subject is given little voice. How do these photographers deal with the trauma of experiencing some of the world’s most devastating situations? Is it a different variety of post-traumatic stress? The public needs to be more aware of the baggage these journalists must carry with them for the duration of their lives.
I came across this photo in my email; an old friend sent it to me. She had received it from her mother. Immediately, I was drawn to the intensity of the image; both horrified and intrigued. It seems that these kinds of images circulate through the media quite often. However, this one in particular is unforgettable. Perhaps it has to do with the informal style of the photo. I set out immediately to discover more about the image. Was the child a girl or a boy? Was it in Africa or somewhere else? What I was most interested in though, was finding out what happened to the child. Did he or she live or die?
The image made me think about the fact that this child is one among millions that is suffering. In our First World Country with two-story supermarkets, specialty stores with organic produce, etc., we rarely face the prospect of starvation. Even the homeless, who are not able to access food due to monetary issues, are often able to visit shelters that provide free meals on a daily basis. In comparison to quick deaths like shootings, starvation is a slow and painful process; one that can take weeks as the body becomes less and less functional. The child in the photograph looks to be far along into food deprivation and also appears to be in a great deal of pain; without the energy to walk or sit upright.
The extraordinary element of the photograph is the presence of a vulture lurking in the background. The New York Times published the photograph on March 26th, 1993. Carter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize of Feature Photography in 1994 for the photo. However, the recognition that surrounded the photo was met with equal concern and outrage for the subject. Carter’s photograph received an unprecedented amount of attention and response from readers, most of whom expressed disgust towards the photograph. Many of responses pointed a finger at Carter himself, accusing him of indifference and cruelty. The...

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