Facts Behind Kevin Carter’s Photograph: Vulture Stalking a Child

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Kevin Carter Fact
Kevin Carter Fact

The story behind of an African child in Sudan who was starving in a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph is revealed.

Till date, some rumors about Kevin carter piece above are still doing the rounds. A Pulitzer Prize winning photo in 1994 that shows a gaunt little child with a vulture as the background is always associated with the death or the suicide of its photographer.

Rumor has it that the reason of his suicide is because of his guilt and regret for not helping the child and took the image instead and even got an award in a prestigious journalistic event.

No one knows how this rumor was started doing the rounds. Carter wrote in his diary after he took the photo, “Dear God, I promise I will never waste my food no matter how bad it taste and how full I may be”. In a site called Snopes.com, there is a clear denial that he never wrote these words in his dairy or anywhere.

After some investigation on several sources, it is concluded that the photograph is not at all the reason of his suicide. He knew very well that the child was in no danger.

The photo was taken not in a slum or estranged place but in a village where foods were being distributed. In fact, Carter kneeled down in front of the child for about 20 minutes. He took several snaps until suddenly a vulture landed up there and became the background. He also waited until the bird spread its wings and captured more dramatic photos. Apart from that, the parents and family of the child were all standing not far from there busy collecting their foods. After he was done, he even chased it away from there.

Vulture Stalking a Child Story
Vulture Stalking a Child Story

Here is another version of the story told by Joao Silva who was there with Carter at the location where the photo was taken. He shared the story with a Japanese writer; Akio Fujiwara which got published in a book entitled “the boy who became a postcard” (Ehagakini Sareta Shonen publication).

It was on 11 March 1993 when Carter and Silva landed in southern of Sudan to cover a famine phenomenon there. They stepped down of the UN plane that landed to distribute food. The UN team told them that after 30 minutes, they would leave the place.

In that time span, the UN distributed the foods while Carter and Silva roamed around the place and were agape to see people starving and fighting for food. Silva actually took an image of the same child but never published it. According to him, carter shot it 10 meters away from the objects and behind him were crowds of people collecting food.

One important moment after he took the shot is when he sat under a tree and looked depressed. “He said he missed his daughter, Megan and wanted to hug her” said Silva. Carter had a little girl called Megan who was born in 1977 outside marriage with his girlfriend, Kathy Davidson, a school teacher.

When he decided to commit suicide, he also left a letter and wrote as follows:
”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…”

Carter killed himself on 27 July 1994, weeks after he received his Pulitzer Prize by locking himself in his pickup truck and led the muffler gas inside it. He committed suicide because of his depression after leading a difficult and tough life. Ken was devastated when his close friend, Ken Oosterbroek, a fellow photographer and journalist died while covering a riot.

So the articles that mention the photo is the reason behind Kevin Carter’s death are hugely dramatized. Well, the story seems more dramatic and interesting for readers but it is far from the true fact.

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