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Kevin Carter Committed Suicide 3 Months After He Won the Pulitzer Prize for a Photograph of a Vulture Stalking a Starving Girl

In March 1993, photographer Kevin Carter took a trip to South Sudan, where he took an iconic photo of a starving little girl being preyed upon by a vulture. He said that the high pitched whimpering sound of a toddler near the Ayod village attracted him. The girl was taking a rest while struggling to get to a feeding center. He confessed that he waited 20 minutes for the vulture to fly away and when it didn’t, Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased away the vulture. (The girl’s parents had left her to pick food from a UN plane nearby.)

Starving Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture
Starving Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture. Image courtesy: Kevin carter(taken from)

The haunting photograph appeared for the first time on the New York Times paper on March 26, 1993, where it was first sold. It was a metaphoric representation of Africa’s despair. Hundreds of people contacted the paper questioning whether the little girl had survived to which the paper responded through an unusual editor’s note saying that the girl garnered enough strength to walk away from the vulture but her ultimate fate was not known. It was a rule for the journalists in Sudan not to touch victims of the famine, to avoid the risk of transmitting diseases. Carter though came under a lot of criticism for not assisting the girl. The St. Petersburg Times wrote this about him: “The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.

Carter won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo but couldn’t enjoy it because he regretted not helping the child. He was consumed by the violence he had witnessed and haunted by questions about the fate of the girl. He told an interviewer that after this he smoked cigarettes under a tree and cried. 3 months after receiving the price, Carter committed suicide. A note was found in which he had written:

“I am depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and 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.”

[source: fanpop, wikipedia]

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