GO! Change the World with a Moving Photo

Posted on August 6th, 2008 by god

time for change

Arvind here reflecting on a stunning image he was sent yesterday as part of a chain email.

The photo is the 1994 “Pulitzer Prize” winning photo, taken in 1993 during the Sudan famine. The picture depicts a famine stricken child crawling towards a United Nations food camp.

The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat it. This picture shocked the whole world. And though various stories have arisen about this picture, no one knows what happened to the child, including the photographer Kevin Carter who supposedly left the place as soon as the photograph was taken.

Three months later, Kevin Carter committed suicide due to depression, supposedly brought about by his various experiences as a photojournalist around South Africa and other places.

A picture paints a thousand words and 15 years after this picture was taken, parts of the world are still ravaged by famine whereas there is an abundance of food elsewhere. The chain email I received aimed to get one to stop complaining about food and wasting it.

Indeed some recent statistics in the UK showed that we waste around a quarter of all the food we buy! This has obvious huge implications for food production, distribution, carbon emissions, wasted resources, packaging etc. And I am sure for other nations such as the USA, the figure for food wastage must be around the same, if not higher.

So what does an image like this do for you? Are we doing enough for such children around the world?

And do you complain or waste food yourself? If so, when will you stop?

31 Responses to “GO! Change the World with a Moving Photo”

  1. Urban Pagan says:

    straight question

    why didn’t the kid kill the bird and eat it?

    if you are going to be a fussy eater……….

  2. Lib says:

    Hi Arvind,

    The story behind that photo is included in a book I have mentioned in the past, The Bang-bang Club: The Making of the New South Africa by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva.

    In short, Greg Marinovich, Joao Silva and Kevin Carter were 3 photographers for AP and other agencies that covered South Africa’s transition from apartheid to majority rule.

    Kevin Carter was actually a drug addict and captured the above photo in a ‘lucky’ moment. He changed his story many times as to why he didn’t do anything for the child (even at one point saying that he did) and he even speculated as to whether the vulture was merely present or whether it did have intentions. The child in question was actually a few feet from a medical centre and the mother just out of shot so it is widely presumed that the child did survive.

    That doesn’t detract from the powerfulness of the image but if you read the book, their are many more shocking images that they had to deal with.

    Greg Marinovich had observed ANC supporters attack and then burn a suspected Inkatha member (one of many), Lindsay Tshabalala. A picture that ultimately also won him the Pullitzer Prize. Were either of them right for just taking a photo and not taking action?

    Extraordinary stuff.

    Anyway, this photo is shocking but I don’t need to see images like this to realise whats going on. And I don’t waste food anymore.

    • arvind says:

      Excellent stuff Lib!

      Before I posted the article this morning I read a bit more about Kevin Carter – by all accounts he was a disturbed soul and on drugs. It was all down to all the slaughter, carnage and misery he got to witness through his work.

      No matter the history or the true circumstances behind the picture it brought about awareness about the Sudan situation and some change.

      Now for that aubergine curry….

      arvinds last blog post..Lessons in Life and Leadership from a 90 year old!

      • Urban Pagan says:

        in fairness to kevin though if I was taking photo’s of a load of starving kids I’d probably want something to get me off my head.

        problem is however what if he got stoned and got the munchies. now that would put starvation into perspective

        • O'DB says:

          Yea, nice background Lib.

          All leads into an ongoing dilemma that photography/photographers have had to grapple with, namely if you’re documenting a scene how neutral do you remain? If documentary is your goal then ideally you should not interfere or change the scene during the process of documentation (but the powerful images that result may well change things in the aftermath), remaining a completely neutral observer. Cartier Bresson’s ‘capturing the moment’ style of photography was key to this concept, & formed the beginning of the Magnum photographers group that he & others founded, & lead to acceptance of documentary photography as an art-form (another thorny issue).

          An analogous situation arises with anthropologists: in theory they’re there just to document other peoples, customs, etc. so should not affect the group of study, remain neutral & melt into the background. Instead once you start studying, photographing & filming people as part of their documentation the neautrality is broken & your presence & recording taints the natural scene/pattern of their lives you hoped to capture – put simply, once someone knows they’re being watched/filmed how certain can you be that their actions are natural or have been altered by the observer’s presence?

  3. Urban Pagan says:

    You see underneath all great stories lies a great untold story.

    fascinating stuff that Lib.

    I agree with the not wasting food thing. Although I think I wasted some curry on sunday night- although I can’t be sure.

    Great input lib seriously- I never knew any of that. And I am probably the most intelligent person I know.

    • Lib says:

      Yeah quite a bit of the curry was wasted actually.

      Not to worry, it all goes back in the same pot to be used for the next week.

  4. Strong System Bread Bin says:

    Powerful pic, whatever the circumstances.


  5. Purple13 says:

    they also serve who only stand and wait – if the picture and others like it (the circumstance – should the photographer help rather than just click) were not taken, then would our knowledge and willingness to help diminish because their plight wasn’t highlighted?

    On waste – we’re on a budget so we tend not to waste much at all – the odd slice of bread that goes stale – depends where you buy groceries from – some cheaper supermarket stuff just rots the minute you get it home – they must super-chill it to keep it fresh.

    Really annoying.

    Purple13s last blog post..Fabulous Photo Gifts chosen by Steve’s Trek to Nepal

  6. Jim & Em says:

    A striking image and article Arvind – any idea of the amount of starving in the world now or where we can get the stats from?

    The images turns the stomach and no, society isn’t do enough for starving kids, including us.

    Complaining about food or wasting it? It’s relative and in a decent eating out dinner we all expect service and what we pay for rarely remembering the harsh reality of food and water for others.

    ‘This could be a bit spicier’

    ‘More ice in this please’

    ‘What’s taking them so long -that’s their tip gone’

    All pale into insignificance.

    • arvind says:

      Jim – the answer is that over half the world population is without enough food.

      Ok – I just made that figure up, but I am sure I am close to the mark. What is a million or two when billions are starving?

      As Gandhi said, there is enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not greed.

      Never ever again should we complain about the food we get in restaurants – or even in my own kitchen :-)
      arvinds last blog post..Lessons in Life and Leadership from a 90 year old!

      • Urban Pagan says:

        the same ghandi who wanted to resist industrialisation in india promote tribalism and would if he had been allowed kept india in the dark ages.

        the thing I don’t like about him is he did one good film then lost interest

      • Gareth in Thailand says:

        Is that still true given the rise in population of the planet?
        In general if you put on a purely analytical head the stories of ‘starvation and need’ don’t stack up. Sure there are local pockets of poverty and starvation but put against a backdrop of expanding populations worldwide then surely its not the general trend.
        Much of the pockets of starvation are casued by man, either through war (Eithiopia, Sudan, Somalia), mismanagement of resources or just plain incompetence to perform the required tasks (Zimbabawe).
        Ther is the other added factor of some trying to live in areas that can’t sustain life. Maybe send them suitcases not food?

  7. Urban Pagan says:

    in fairness regarding a lot of the starvation in Africa a lot of it is self imposed from the corrupt dictators and tribalism running the countries. so much ‘aid’ gets siphoned off but rather than address this the west gives a bit of money to be seen to be doing our bit while ignoring the root problem. until this is addressed the aid is merely a plaster over the wound. the solution ultimately has to come from the leaders of these countries however they seem more concerned with their own riches than helping their countryfolk.

    • arvind says:

      Well said UP!

      The West has such vested interests in the continual “rule” of these corrupt “leaders” that very little will change – just look at Mugabe.

      UP – what do you suggest that people like me and you can do to change the mindset of these leaders?!

      arvinds last blog post..Lessons in Life and Leadership from a 90 year old!

      • Urban Pagan says:

        assasinate them

        or failing thatg fund coups to get rid of them and put one of our chums in- plus this way we’d make a few quid ourselves

      • Gareth in Thailand says:

        ermm, who in the West is propping up Magabe? We have sanctions and UN resolutions. If we go in and change the leader then we repeat the mistakes of Iraq. You can’t win.
        I don’t see the Zimbabwe people helping themselves. When are the soldiers who prop him up going to look inwards and do what’s right for the country? The fact is Africa is a brutal place and has demonstrated this many times over the years (Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Darfur, etc).
        When the West butts in they are branded imperialiast aggerssors, when we sit back we are shown to be ‘having a vested interest’ or ‘inhumane’
        Leave them to it.

        • Lib says:

          Yeah I agree Gareth, from my view point, Mugabe is not supported by the West.

          In order for the West to get involved, we have to have the backing of the other African nations (or it won’t work) and at the moment, it’s simply not there although that is thought to be changing.

        • Urban Pagan says:

          Also Arvind what about the role of South Africa

          the west was instrumental in the overthrow of apartheid

          however when south africa is now asked to act on Zimbabwe they get into bed with him.

          perhaps certain african states deserve what they get?

          Nigeria is HUGELY corrupt. African run
          Ethiopia the same
          None of the west were responsible for the genocide in Rwanda

          the west has made mistakes but when will African nations actually admit 90% of their problems are self inflicted and self sustaining?

          they won’t. and the western liberals who refuse to believe african states do wrong for fear of being called racist are as bad as the imperialist bigots of days gone by.

        • Gareth in Thailand says:

          I hear rumours the French were involved in the Rwandan genocide, some guys may be charged soon.
          However I think its a bit of tit for tat on the accusations, either way wouldn’t do any harm to lock a few French up anyway.

  8. The picture is horrifying although I know there are other things that happen that don’t have pictures that are more so. Thanks for the extra information Lib.

    I do unfortunately waste food because I forget about it…I’m working on it, but it is difficult. I have an eating disorder, so things get all messed up with food. Please, do not try to explain or try to make me feel guilty for not eating what is available…it is unhelpful…only makes me feel worse, but doesn’t stop my behavior.

    ClinicallyCluelesss last blog post..I’m Feeling A Bit More Depressed!

  9. Sarah says:

    The correct sequence should be:
    1. The photographer takes the photo.
    2. The photographer brings the kid to the nearby medical camp or refugee camp or whatever camp they have over there and get some food for the kid.
    3. The photgrapher leave.

    Of course, things are easy to say than done. The picture reflects a part of life that not many people get to witness but many people are suffering the same fate.

    Sarahs last blog post..The Duchess – Keira Knightley As Georgiana

  10. aussiecynic says:

    If I was the photographer there would be no way in hell I would leave that child sitting there waiting to die…
    Any normal person with half a heart would have picked him/her up and taken them to help….
    He can feel as bad as he likes the point is he didnt help them.. did he.. and this related in his own comment
    ‘no one knows what happened to the child, including the photographer Kevin Carter who supposedly left the place as soon as the photograph was taken.’ if he did indeed leave as suggested then I have no sympathy for him what so ever….

    as to your question… very rarely does any food spoil in my house, extra veges are frozen, plate scraps go to the dogs or to the chickens, I try to cook as much as we need with very little left overs….
    the fact that this image of suffering won an award yet changed nothing but our knowledge that this happens shows us that either we have very short attention spans, are to selfish for our good or that the Governments of the world are to afraid to stop it… there is actually more than enough food in the world to feed everyone.. if countries with more than they need or can store put it into a central distribution centre and the governments of the countries inforcing such horror on their people where made to account then this could be averted…

    Greed, consumerism and war are the cause…..

    aussiecynics last blog post..the weekend from Hell!

    • Lib says:

      I get where you are coming from AC but where would it stop?

      If you were taking photos of nature, would you intrude if a lion cub were attacked? Or would you stop a gazelle from being slaughtered by a leopard?

      It can be argued that what those photographers witnessed was indeed nature. So when do you step back and when do you step in?


      • aussiecynic says:

        There is rule in nature amongst film and photograhers not to interferr,,,, as it is a matter of survival between the species… if you saved the gazelle it might be at the cost of an entire pride..
        This is different as this childs suffering benefits no one, this is a human, if the child was being attacked by a shark would the photographer let him get eaten or try and help him….
        the photographer was in no danger by helping, and if they child died at least it would be with a little more dignaty than vulture food….

  11. I’m glad that I am still horrified by this picture and its meaning because this obviously goes on frequently. I know the background behind this story now, but it doesn’t change that this occurs. I’m glad I am not desensitized and that it makes me hurt and want to cry. I never, ever what to be desensitized by things like this which is why I could never be a photographer of life such as this. I wouldn’t be taking pictures…I’d be trying to help.

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