Afterward he sat under a tree, lit a cigarette, talked to God and cried.

In 1993 Carter headed north of the border with Silva to photograph the rebel movement in famine-stricken Sudan. To make the trip, Carter had taken a leave from the Weekly Mail and borrowed money for the air fare. Immediately after their plane touched down in the village of Ayod, Carter began snapping photos of famine victims. Seeking relief from the sight of masses of people starving to death, he wandered into the open bush. He heard a soft, high-pitched whimpering and saw a tiny girl trying to make her way to the feeding center. As he crouched to photograph her, a vulture landed in view. Careful not to disturb the bird, he positioned himself for the best possible image. He would later say he waited about 20 minutes, hoping the vulture would spread its wings. It did not, and after he took his photographs, he chased the bird away and watched as the little girl resumed her struggle. Afterward he sat under a tree, lit a cigarette, talked to God and cried. “He was depressed afterward,” Silva recalls. “He kept saying he wanted to hug his daughter.”

(…)With the Pulitzer, however, he had to deal not only with acclaim but also with the critical focus that comes with fame. Some journalists in South Africa called his prize a “fluke,” alleging that he had somehow set up the tableau. Others questioned his ethics. “The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering,” said the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times, “might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.” Even some of Carter’s friends wondered aloud why he had not helped the girl.

Carter was painfully aware of the photojournalist’s dilemma. “I had to think visually,” he said once, describing a shoot-out. “I am zooming in on a tight shot of the dead guy and a splash of red. Going into his khaki uniform in a pool of blood in the sand. The dead man’s face is slightly gray. You are making a visual here. But inside something is screaming, “My God.’ But it is time to work. Deal with the rest later. If you can’t do it, get out of the game.” Says Nachtwey, “Every photographer who has been involved in these stories has been affected. You become changed forever. Nobody does this kind of work to make themselves feel good. It is very hard to continue.”

via PRESS:THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KEVIN CARTER by Scott Macleod (Sep, 1994).