Certainly one of most shocking and dramatic images the world has ever seen, Kevin Carter’s 1993 photograph of a struggling, emaciated toddler with a vulture ominously sitting behind her has also been one of the most enduring albeit controversial images of famine in Africa. Find out more about this award-winning photograph in this installment of Influential Photographs.
In March 1993, South African photojournalist and Bang-Bang Club member Kevin Carter traveled to Sudan. Upon reaching the village of Ayod, he saw an emaciated child who stopped to rest en route to a feeding center set up by United Nations. A hooded vulture soon landed a few steps from the toddler. Carter carefully and slowly went closer, then took the shot from around 10 meters away to get both the child and the vulture in focus.
Joao Silva, a Portuguese photojournalist based in South Africa and also a member of the Bang-Bang Club, accompanied Kevin Carter in Sudan and gave his own account of the events surrounding the photograph. In an interview with Japanese journalist and writer Akio Fujiwara, Silva said that on March 11, 1993, he and Carter traveled to Sudan along with the United Nations and Operation Lifeline Sudan. They were told that they would be hitting the road in 30 minutes after distributing food, so Carter and Silva hurried off to take some photographs. While Silva decided to look for guerrilla fighters, Carter opted to stay and take photos a few dozen feet from the plane. He also said that Carter took many photos of the starving children, quite shocked after seeing a famine situation for the first time. The girl with the vulture was among the children briefly left behind by their parents as they collected food from the plane.
Carter’s photograph was sold to the New York Times, and was first published on March 26, 1993. Many other newspapers across the globe also published the photograph. In 1994, the so-called “Struggling Girl” won Carter the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.
However, as with many dramatic and compelling images, “Struggling Girl” also earned Carter some criticism for his actions as a photojournalist. People around the world wanted to know about the fate of the girl, and whether he actually helped her in any way. Carter initially said he took the picture and left right after. But later, he also answered that he waited for 20 minutes for the vulture to leave and when it didn’t, he chased it away and left.
The story behind Kevin Carter’s award-winning photograph was also told in the 2010 Canadian-South African Film The Bang Bang Club.
Exampling Ethics -- Kevin Carter & The Struggling Girl (Cogtography on Wordpress)
Ethical Limits in Documentary Photography (Not Just a Document on Blogspot)
Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.