Kevin Carter: Noir Images of Reality and Death

Kevin Carter was one of the gang of four fearless white South African journalists who captured worst side of apartheid in South Africa. These images of brutality were instrumental in creating an international outrage against apartheid. Later Kevin travelled to different parts of African continent to capture, famine, strife, poverty and sufferings.

The job of photojournalist is probably one of the most difficult jobs. They have to shoot with camera goriest of realities and most brutal deaths. This gang of brave young photojournalists known as “The Bang Bang Club” would often put themselves in the line of fire to come away with images of man killing man mercilessly. Through their photographs they did sensitize millions of people all around the globe and mobilize support and aid for the cause of apartheid and the poor in Africa.

It wasn’t easy to shoot such noir pictures. Kevin would often take drugs to numb his senses to cope up with his depression. It may have been difficult on his conscience to be a white man and a direct witness to the atrocities carried out by white people on blacks. Kevin’s personal life too was affected by his extreme moods and job pressures. Yet Kevin persisted and tasted success. But this very success became a fatal sting which he couldn’t survive.

Kevin Carter’s one image of famine in Sudan won him Pulitzer award and instant fame. He had captured one image of a starving girl being stalked by a vulture. The girl and her image tormented him. It seems after shooting the particular image Kevin had thought about his daughter, felt sick and had even cried. The girl meanwhile had scampered away to safety or maybe death. The image became very famous. But some hawkish critics questioned his sensitivity and priorities. It was said that instead of helping the girl Kevin had trained lens on her. But the truth was maybe he didn’t save that one girl but he did save many more girls with that one image which got international attention to plight of people of Sudan.

Kevin often contemplated committing suicide. It is not known whether this one image which got him international recognition tormented him. For every image of death he captured through his lens was dark and horrific.  He even lost one of his close friends to this profession. His friend was shot while taking a picture of an encounter. Just within few weeks after collecting Pulitzer award at a glittering ceremony Kevin committed suicide. In his suicide note he did mention that he was haunted by the images he captured.

Every war photojournalist must suffer extreme depression. To be a mute witness to death is not easy. But it is important to capture noir reality frame by frame. The worst suffering must be recorded. The brutal beast inside man must be exposed.

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About Documentary on Kevin Carter’s Life

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  • apu

    thanks madhuri for your sensible column. what kelvin carter has done is a horrible work but a very much humanistic one .

  • http://www.hotmail.com anth

    its a great column, madhuri. i m inspired my carter . i live in a small country, so i can do nuthin to help people who are in need.carter did a great job. he has woke all of us from sleep. he was a great person. if all of us had a second of our lives doing such a great job as him, then world wouldn’t have been a place like it is now. it includes all da people who commented carter’s job to be horrible. may god bless carter!

  • Madhuri Katti

    Thank You, Anth for visiting the site. True, Kevin Carter was a brave photojournalist who exposed the horrific and sad reality of African countries and did his bit to bring about some change.

  • anna

    I’m so glad this article isn’t about how Carter could’ve helped that kid. I’ve gotten so tired of those stories, people don’t seem to think of how much attention that one picture brought to Africa (like you said). And whether true or not, another photographer who had been present with Carter at the time did say in several interviews that the child’s mother was close by, collecting food, and had only left her for a minute. It is so easy for people to sit in the comfort of their homes and talk about how Carter should have helped the kid; they don’t think about how they have never done anything to help someone in their sad and pathetic lives. It’s infuriating! Good job, Madhuri!

  • Madhuri Katti

    Thank you, Anna. It is indeed sad that one image which brought aid to Sudan and award for Kevin Carter became so controversial and eventually became one of the causes of his shocking death. UN, International aid agencies, peace keeping corps and developed nations are all mute spectators in this world ridden with conflict and poverty. No one really castigates them for inaction.

  • JJ

    i dnt knw why Carter committed suicide.he had no need to.that image he got brought enlightment to us even Africans.I’m a South African and seeing this image made me appreciate the life i have and made me realise i got a part to play in fighting poverty.

  • Chelsea

    I’m sorry but I still find it hard to stomach that his image may have saved many more children if it didn’t save this one. Why couldn’t he have taken his photo and then helped the child. It would still have the same impact, whereas now all I can think about is how he didn’t help.

    • The Fiendish

      Thank you, Chelsea for visiting and reading the article. We will never know what went through Kevin Carter’s mind and what he did after taking the picture. There are many websites about Kevin Carter, this picture and they do tell he was disturbed after taking the picture, he cried, he thought of his daughter and apparently he waited till vulture went way and made sure that little girl resumed her journey. It is a disturbing picture and he was a disturbed man who ended his own life after receiving highest award for his work.

  • JERLYN

    I know, all of us can give a help to our oppressed fellowmen. There are many ways to extend our helping hands. We learned the lessons from others experiences, and we have the chance to do a lot of things that will bless others. As for now, I will give my Prayers to these people whose now experiencing..special test of life.