In March 1993, photographer Kevin Carter made a trip to southern Sudan, in the village of Ayod, where he photographed a starving child and a vulture waiting for the child to die, in order to eat it.
The photograph was sold to The New York Times where it appeared for the first time on March 26, 1993. On that day, hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask if the child had survived, leading the newspaper to run a special report on the child’s fate. They said that the girl had enough power to get away from the vulture, but that her final fate was unknown.
Carter eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, but he couldn’t enjoy it. “I’m really sorry I didn’t get the kid,” said to one of his friends. Fueled by the violence he had witnessed and typed from questions about the fate of the little girl, four months later on July 27, 1994, he committed suicide. He was just 33 years old.
In 2011, the child’s father revealed that the child was actually a boy, Kong Nyong, and had been taken care of by the UN food aid station. Nyong had died of a “fever” four years earlier in 2007, according to his family.
Kevin Carter was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 13 September 1960 and grew up in a middle-class, whites-only neighborhood. As a child, he occasionally saw police raids to arrest black people who were illegally living in the area.
Portions of Carter’s suicide note read:
“I’m really, really sorry. The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist. …depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners … I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky”.