Insensitive Photography

kevin_carter.jpgIt is often said that that a photograph speaks more than a thousand words. Thus, when I sat down for my first photography lecture this semester, all I thought about photography was the volume of energy, color, charisma and vibration the lens portrays in front of us. One fifth of a second, and that’s exactly what it takes to make history. So, when it was my turn to become the next McNally, I thought of the best things to capture through my lens, colors, fast moving traffic at Marine Drives, couples cuddling at Carter Road, but, as I surfed the net to view some of the great works of some legendary photographers to get an idea, I came across Kevin Carter and I was zapped.

Kevin Carter was a South African photojournalist who won the Pulitzer, the most coveted prize for photography, in 1994 for the picture he clicked during a famine in southern Sudan. Two months after winning the most prestigious award, that is the most valued in a photographer’s life, Carter committed suicide. Shocking isn’t it? Look at the photograph for a minute and then think. It’s a malnutritioned girl resting on her way to the UN camp in South Africa and a vulture next to her awaits her death. This depressing “positive” print reproduced on a photosensitive surface won him all the acclaim and fame that he had desired. After being presented the award, he was asked what had happened to the girl. However, he had no answer. He just said that the vulture flew away after sometime but he had no clue what had happened to the girl, if she had survived or not. The critics were harsh. This is when the ethics in photography were first questioned. A human being witnessing a sight like this and adjusting his lens to capture the misery rather than helping the half dead creature, can be described as nothing else but callous. Carter ended his life on the 27th of July 1994, stating himself as depressed and unhappy with the situations around him. He said that he was haunted by the vivid memories of corpses, anger and pain.

David Bailey once stated that, “with photos I always think I am looking at something dead.” In an incident that occurred at the Gateway of India three years ago, when a lady was killed by a lunatic, a leading magazine carried a picture of her slit throat while her eyes were looking at the lens. The magazine also carried a photograph of her, still alive, pleading to the man, who was behind the camera and adjusting his lens, to save her from the lunatic. This is where the dark side of this profession appears, when you forget the fact that you are a sensitive person, before being a photographer.

Photography has come under serious criticism at times like these and this really makes us wonder whether this is the kind of stuff that we actually thought photography is about? The colors are there, the background is amazing, patterns and geometry, content, composition and detailing is commendable, but, are they the only things a photograph is all about? Where did the deeper meaning vanish? There is a thin line between being a professional and a cold-blooded living being. This is the line which the photographers need to define for themselves.

Aakanksha Ahluwalia