Photo by Kevin Carter. In March 1993 Carter made a trip to southern Sudan. The sound of soft, high-pitched whimpering near the village of Ayod attracted Carter to an emaciated Sudanese toddler. The girl had stopped to rest while struggling to a feeding center, whereupon a vulture had landed nearby. He said that he waited about 20 minutes, hoping that the vulture would spread its wings. It didn’t. Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away . However, he also came under heavy criticism for just photographing — and not helping — the little girl:
The St. Petersburg Times in Florida said this of Carter: “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.”
The photograph was sold to The New York Times
where it appeared for the first time on March 26, 1993. Practically overnight hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask whether the child had survived, leading the newspaper to run a special editor’s note saying the girl had enough strength to walk away from the vulture, but that her ultimate fate was unknown.
On April 2, 1994 Nancy Buirski, a foreign New York Times
picture editor, phoned Carter to inform him he had won the most coveted prize for photojournalism. Carter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography on May 23, 1994 at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library.
This was found in his diary:
Dear God, 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 girl, guide and deliver her away from her 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.
On 27 July 1994 Carter drove to the Bloemfontein river, near the Field and Study Center, an area where he used to play as a child, and took his own life by taping one end of a hose to his pickup truck’s exhaust pipe and running the other end to the passenger-side window. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning at the age of 33. Portions of Carter’s suicide note read:
“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…The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist… I have gone to join Ken [Photojournalist friend who was killed by friendly fire a few months earlier] if I am that lucky.”