Photojournalist Kevin Carter, notorious for his photograph of the starving child in southern Sudan, committed suicide after receiving an extensive amount of criticism from the public regarding the nature of the photo. People argued that he should have “saved” the child instead of photographing him, while they sat comfortably at home in their fancy estates. This debate widely circulated throughout the world, causing Carter to question the ethics of it himself.
Meanwhile, two men quarrel at the 49th Street subway station in Manhattan when tensions escalate and 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han is pushed onto the tracks. As the man struggles to pull himself onto the platform, Umar Abbasi snaps 49 photos of Han’s impending death to allegedly warn the driver of the train. This tactic did not serve as useful, and the man was flattened by the train only seconds later. Today, Abbasi continues to live without any visible remorse.
According to the story on NPR, cynics argue that a New York Post freelance photographer’s decision to use a camera’s flash as a signaling device was far too coincidental. Above of all, skeptics demand to know why Abbasi had the time to snap a series of photos, but no time to save a life.
So, before anyone argues that both men were wrong to photograph the impending death of a human, let’s stop to think about the nature in which the images were taken.
In Carter’s case, the photo came from an expedition he set out to do. He wasn’t just hanging in the desert with some vultures, he had a purpose to be there, thus differentiating him from Abbasi. In Abbasi’s more disturbing case, he was just hanging around with his camera and someone just happened to push Han onto the tracks. Abbasi saw an opportunity and took it. Any logical person living in New York City would consider the fact that a good majority of the people are tourists, therefore a good majority of the people are tourists who take pictures in subways.
Smells less like a signaling device, and more like an opportunity with poor taste.
Abbasi wasn’t a photojournalist trying to reveal a plea for help in a nation that needs recognition. No, he was a freelancer looking for a way to make an extra buck, and to get some free publicity. Again, like in my previous post, publicity stunts like this don’t fly. I can’t condone photojournalists who are trying to tell the story for the sake of being a part of a popularity contest.