January 4, 2010

365 Project: Day 80

I used to want to be a photojournalist. I wanted to travel and document the major events and injustices of the world. I thought about joining the Peace Corp. I still think about it. There's a part of me that will always want to do that and I may still attempt it. But, sometimes being a photographer is emotionally really difficult. While everyone gets to see the pictures you take and say "Oh that's terrible, someone should do something." You actually have to be in those horrible places witnessing everything first hand. The hard part for me is not only seeing it, but knowing that there is almost nothing I can do help or to change it.

Kevin Carter was a South African photographer who traveled documenting war zones, the famine in Sudan, the brutality of apartheid, etc. He became famous for an image he took of a little girl who was starving, dying and struggling to drag herself to a feeding center. As he crouched down to take the shot, a vulture landed behind the girl. It sat, waiting for her to die. That photo became the defining image for the famine in the Sudan in the early 90s. After he got the shot he wanted, he shooed away the vulture and left the girl to continue her struggle. Carter sat under a tree, smoked a cigarette, talked to God and cried.  He was obviously deeply effected by this little girl, but he still didn't help her. Who knows what happened to her, but Carter won a Pulitzer for his image.

Two months later he committed suicide by carbon-monoxide poisoning. He left a note in the passenger seat that said, "The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist." Through all the years of documenting these terrible events he had become a drug addict and his personal relationships were suffering. Although he won a Pulitzer for that image, he received a lot of criticism for not helping that child and that deeply effected him. He received the international acclaim he had always wanted, but at what cost? He had to live with himself and the fact that he left that little girl there to die and profited greatly from it. Its tragic.

I can't imagine living my life traveling from place to place, witnessing the most horrible tragedies in the world and watching people suffer every day. I couldn't do it. I could never have left that child there to die. A lot of good can come from making the world aware of people and places that are less fortunate and in desperate need of aid, but there is a fine line between documenting for the sake of international awareness and documenting for personal gain.


Karen Beth said...

Wow. This is so very heart-breaking. Why didn't he help her? Was there any indication? How sad... on MANY levels.

Jamie Healy said...

Wow! Very interesting and powerful! I believe in the Ying and Yang of life---that with joy there is sadness and pain. The life is about keeping the best stability.

The Waits said...

What emotions can come from a photograph, not only from the viewer, but the artist. What a powerful struggle, on so many levels, for so many people. Thank you for sharing!