South African photojournalist Kevin Carter took this photograph in 1993 in the Sudan. There are differing accounts of it being taken, some of which imply Carter was himself a vulture, parasitically exploiting the dying girl for money, fame and notoriety. For a while there was an email chain that said this pretty unambiguously. There is also a Manic Street Preachers song, called Kevin Carter, which is uncomplimentary although it’s less full of moral certainties.
The story I read in Adbusters is that Carter hopped off the plane on a bush airstrip and heard a quiet whimpering. Following the sound he saw the girl crawling through a clearing and watched her. Then the vulture landed. Carter watched and waited for the vulture to spread its wings in the sunshine but instead the vulture waited. Carter clicked.
Some accounts suggest he watched the pair for a while, smoking a cigarette, and then he chased the vulture away. No-one knows what happened to that girl.
The photograph meant Carter hit the big time, winning the 1994 Pulitzer and being published in the New York Times, but it didn’t work out for him. He was, as the Preachers point out, deep in the white piped lie and his life unravelled pretty quickly after the photograph hit the presses. His girlfriend left, his best mate died, he was about to be evicted and he couldn’t keep it together.
He committed suicide on July 27 1994, little more than a month after the end of apartheid.