Throwing Up!

Throwing Up!

During a discussion about street photography with a friend, I told him about my hesitation about taking a photograph of a girl throwing up. He immediately turned to me and asked "Why would you want to take a photo of someone throwing up"? Good question...

While on a photo walk, I noticed this person throwing up on the far end of a short alleyway. Since she was only twenty yards from South Street, I presumed her friends would help her. I initially walked on, but then decided to photograph her and turned to the alley. I was surprised that no one was helping her and as I approached, felt weird about taking her photo. I stopped, took this single frame and then watched her for about five minutes. Fortunately, her friend arrived in a cab and carried her away. Street photography is a type of documentary photography, but what is the moral obligation of the photographer? Can he/she always be just a by-standing observer?

Kevin Carter - Vulture When we encounter a situation where someone needs help, many of us become passive by-standers and at most call 911. Photographers find themselves in such situations more frequently where they have to choose between helping or photographing. The photo of a vulture stalking a starving Sudanese child by Kevin Carter has become "the story" of this moral contradiction. Carter, who won a Pulitzer for this photo committed suicide after winning the prize: "...I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children..." *

After this photograph was published in the New York Times in 1993, the newspaper received hundreds of queries asking for the fate of the girl. Many criticized Kevin Carter for being a by-stander an not helping, although the circumstances were most probably very different. What is truly disturbing is that humanity continues to be by-standers despite the awareness raised by images such as this. Famine continues to haunt many underdeveloped countries today, while, in the developed world, many of our problems are self imposed.
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