Kevin Carter (13 September 1960 – 27 July 1994) was an award-winning South African photojournalist and member of the Bang-Bang Club. He was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph depicting the 1993 famine in Sudan. He committed suicide at the age of 33. His story is depicted in the 2010 feature film, The Bang-Bang-Club in which he was played by Taylor Kitsch.
Carter had started to work as weekend sports photographer in 1983. In 1984 he moved on to work for the Johannesburg Star, bent on exposing the brutality of apartheid.
Carter was the first to photograph a public execution “necklacing” by black Africans in South Africa in the mid-1980s. The victim was Maki Skosana, who had been accused of having a relationship with a police officer. He later spoke of the images; “I was appalled at what they were doing. I was appalled at what I was doing. But then people started talking about those pictures… then I felt that maybe my actions hadn’t been at all bad. Being a witness to something this horrible wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing to do.”
Prize-winning photograph in Sudan
In March 1993, while on a trip to Sudan, Carter was preparing to photograph a starving toddler trying to reach a feeding center when a vulture landed nearby. Carter reported taking the picture, because it was his “job title”, and leaving. He came under criticism for failing to help the 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.”
Sold to the New York Times, the photograph first appeared on 26 March 1993 and was carried in many other newspapers around the world. Hundreds of people contacted the Times to ask the fate of the girl. The paper reported that it was unknown whether she had managed to reach the feeding center. In 1994, the photograph won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.
On 27 July 1994 Carter drove to the Braamfontein Spruit river, near the Field and Study Centre, 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, aged 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 … I have gone to join Ken recently deceased colleague Ken Oosterbroek if I am that lucky.”
- The Bang Bang Club Movie
- The Bang-Bang Club is a film adaptation of the autobiographical book The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War co-written by Greg Marinovich and João Silva who were part of the group of four photographers known as Bang-Bang Club, the other two members being Kevin Carter and Ken Oosterbroek.
- The Bang Bang Club Movie Website