Kevin Carter committed suicide 3 months after he won the Pulitzer Prize for a photograph of a vulture stalking a starving girl.
The story is related to the famous famine picture that shows a Vulture stalking a starving small Girl – that the photographer Kevin Carter who won the Pulitzer Prize for it committed suicide 3 months later. The claim is a fact, but does not convey complete information.
About Kevin Carter
Kevin Carter (13 September 1960 – 27 July 1994) was a South African photojournalist and member of the Bang-Bang Club, a group of four fearless photojournalists who traveled throughout South Africa to capture the horror during apartheid.
Award Winning Picture
The award winning picture taken by Kevin Carter shows a heart-breaking scene of a starving child collapsed on the ground, struggling to get to a food center during a famine in the Sudan on 1 March 1993. In the background is a vulture stalking the emaciated child – as if it were waiting for her to die. The photograph was sold to the New York Times and first appeared on 26 March 1993, wherefrom it became popular worldwide. For this photograph depicting the 1993 famine in Sudan, Kevin Carter received the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography on 23 May 1994.
Although the photograph became popular, it garnered much criticism as well. Hundreds of people contacted the New York Times newspaper to inquire about the fate of the girl, to which the paper reported that it was not known whether she had managed to reach the feeding centre. Post this; Carter had to face lot of criticism from many people around the world, some even described him as the actual ‘vulture’ who could not save the little girl. To this, Carter reported taking the picture was his “job title”, and that he was told not to touch the children for fear of transmitting disease. After the horror of the work, in an interview, Kevin Carter said he sat under a tree for a long time, “smoking cigarettes and crying.”
The photograph of the starving child and vulture and the suicide of the photographer later became so popular that there also came up some hoax stories based on it. The below message is said to come from the suicide note of Kevin Carter:
I promise I will never waste my food no matter how bad it can taste and how full I may be. I pray that He will protect this little boy, guide and deliver him away from his misery. I pray that we will be more sensitive towards the world around us and not be blinded by our own selfish nature and interests.
I hope this picture will always serve as a reminder to us that how fortunate we are and that we must never ever take things for granted.
Seen in the photograph is not a boy, but a girl starving. So clearly, this is an eRumor using the photograph story that includes a comment about world hunger and a lesson about not wasting food. The wordings were not included in Carter’s suicide note.
Movie & Documentary
The story behind photograph was used in many cultural depictions. Based on the lives of the four photojournalists during the Apartheid period in South Africa, in 2010, a Canadian-South African film called “The Bang Bang Club” was made, also featuring the times when Nelson Mandela was released from prison till the 1994 elections.
In 2004, an American documentary film about the suicide of Kevin Carter was made. Titled as ‘The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club‘, also known as ‘The Life of Kevin Carter‘, it described how Kevin won the Pulitzer Prize for his photograph showing African girl being stalked by a vulture. It also mentioned how Kevin became depressed by the killings he witnessed as a photographer in war-torn places, and even about journalists and people’s perceptions of journalists.
In less than three months after receiving the Pulitzer Prize on 23 May 1994, on 27 July, Carter drove his way to the Braamfontein area where he used to play as a child, and committed suicide. Portions of Kevin Carter’s suicide note read:
“I’m really, really sorry. The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist… 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.”
It is understood that apart from the guilt of not being able to help the starving child in front of a stalking vulture and the criticism that he had to face, Kevin was going through other crisis as well.
Kevin Carter, according to the people who know him, is a fragile soul, who would regularly return to his newsroom in tears after witnessing violence in the streets. The criticism from the famine picture hit Carter hard and fed his self-doubts. Between that, he had to deal with the pressure of living up to the acclaim of Pulitzer Prize winner. In addition, he was devastated by the death of his close friend and colleague Ken Oosterbroek, who was shot and killed while covering street violence in the township of Thokoza (township south of Johannesburg). (Carter said he should have died in the place of his friend, who was viewed as a better photographer.) Moreover, he had a drug and alcohol problem, and was also going through failed relationship and financial crisis.
In short, yes, it is a fact that Kevin Carter committed suicide in less than three months after winning the Pulitzer Prize for his photograph showing starving South African child being stalked by a vulture, but there were other factors too that contributed to his despair. Some of his photographer friends said Kevin is a sensitive person who has chosen a wrong profession.
Hoax or Fact:
Fact with some missing information.