Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: JOY (12/07/17)
- TITLE: Death to Joy
By Phillip Cimei
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Kevin Carter won the Pulitzer Prize for photojournalism in 1994. He photographed an emaciated shell of a child sitting bent over, crying on the scorched sand of Sudan. Nothing unusual there—considering the numbers that suffer every day from starvation. But this situation would capture the attention of the world. Some would be moved to tears and others anger over Kevin’s presumed callous disregard for the tormented child.
The pronounced outline of her rib cage, along with her bloated belly and scarecrow arms, accentuated her plight. Her hands cupped her shallow cheeked face as she whimpered with the little strength she had left. Alone writhing in cramp induced pain, she pleads for one more meal. Her parents left her there as they begged for what little portion they could get at the United Nations feeding center. Kevin slowly inched his way toward her. Covertness was the key word in his mind as he positioned the camera to immediately take the photo at the right moment. He knew it wasn’t just a hungry child that would catch the imagination of the world. Behind her awaited another; his meal would come as the last breath left her tormented body.
Just a few feet away, silently waiting, sits a repulsed symbol of death. A vulture. It awaits the inevitable. Maybe not today. Maybe not right here. If this time fails, it will assume its hunt in the sky, painting circles as it swoops down as an uninvited guest to witness someone or something’s last breath. This vulture is different. It will feast on the hearts of many worldwide, symbolizing the indifference of the haves—those that feast on delicacies, and the have nots—those that eat the dust of the earth. That was one view the world had of that Pulitzer prize winning photograph. The other, reproach toward the one who captured that heart wrenching moment. The other vulture, Kevin.
Kevin stood for twenty minutes positioning himself for the perfect shot. With the stealth of a Navy Seal, he inched his way forward. He was hoping that the vulture would spread its wings creating greater emotional impact. But this didn’t happen, so he took his best shot. That shot would ricochet and this vulture would turn and feed upon Kevin’s tormented soul.
Kevin got his picture, he reaped the financial gain at the expense of this little starving Sudanese child. And then the feathers flew. Ruffled by those that were concerned about the postscript of this story, the world hounded the New York Times until they had to explain the girl’s outcome.
They tried to explain that the girl did live and that Kevin scared the vulture away. And that Kevin was instructed, as other photojournalist, not to touch children in such condition—they might have a disease that the photojournalists could spread to others. This must have eased the concerns of the Pulitzer committee because the next year Kevin would win that coveted prize. But he would lose something more precious. Joy.
The summer after his Pulitzer Prize award, Kevin saw enough—enough killing, hate, and starvation. He was depressed and troubled by what he had witnessed as a photojournalist. The image of that little starving girl probably was the catalyst to his next statement to the world—not a photo, but a note which stated, “Joy does not exist.”
Kevin drove his vehicle to a playground where he had played as a child. He hooked a hose to the tailpipe of his truck and inserted the other end into his window. That vulture had devoured his joy. At age 33, he had enough. The suicide note said it all.
“I’m really, really sorry. The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist.” Kevin saw life through a lens—a photo lens. And he focused on human suffering. His occupation defined him and ultimately destroyed him. If only he listened to the psalmist, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy…” Psalms 16:11NIV.
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