The Saddest Photograph in History

Saddest Photograph

A photo is worth a thousand words, they say.

The photograph you just saw, is a saga of sadness and pain. At first glance, you notice a vulture and a child. But hidden deep within it is a story that will break your heart.

The picture was taken by photographer Kevin Carter in Sudan, in the year 1993. Carter accompanied a UN mission and they had stopped to distribute food in the famine struck area.

While the families were going to collect food, Carter noticed a child who was walking toward the food, and had stopped since she was tired. Which was when a culture began stalking her. The girl was malnourished, and the vulture slowly waited for her to die, to eat off her.

Carter got a shot of the scene, and the picture created ripples across the world. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography – the most prestigious award in photojournalism. However, Carter also faced severe backlash for the image.

People questioned why he couldn’t save the child. Questions were raised on his ethics between being a photographer and a human being. People were anxious to know about the girl’s condition, whether is she alive or not, and if she isn’t, then why was Carter standing there and watching the show without offering help? Such a controversy was made that both Carter and his friend, (who traveled along with him with the UN), appeared in an interview to answer everyone’s anxious questions.

But that’s not the end of the story. A few months after the photograph won the award, Carter entered a phase of utter depression and committed suicide. It was learned that he was depressed by the carnage he saw at war-torn places and places struck by famine, poverty and drought (the underdeveloped countries) where he usually visited to capture photographs. His suicide note stated the following:

“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.”

(Ken is the name of his closest friend, who was shot and killed, while working in a township of Thokoza, for apartheid).

Following the suicide note, Carter took his life by attaching one end of a hose to the exhaust pipe of his pickup truck and the other end to the driver’s side window. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning, at the young age 33.

That one photograph made Kevin Carter’s life. And ended it as well.

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