Bang Bang Carter

“”The camera’s light meter did not work, and so I twisted the aperture wide open: f5.6 should be right……..As I focused, I noted that the early sun was right behind the burning man,” photographer Greg Marinovich wrote how he captured the moment that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1991.

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A suspected Zulu spy burned and axed. Photograph by Greg Marinovich

The Bang Bang Club (2010) is the story of four photojournalists Greg Marinovich, Ken Oosterbroek, Joao Silva and Kevin Carter who risked their lives to document the the brutal struggle that oppressed society of South Africa witnessed during first free elections in the early 90s. The movie is an adaptation of autobiography- The Bang Bang Club- Snapshots from a Hidden War.  The name Bang Bang Club first appeared in a South African Magazine Living that referred to the four photographers. Though they were unknown to each other, the passion for photography and the ideals united them. They  ran across the streets, hid in the corners and escaped from the bullets to capture the tumultuous clashes that broke out between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

The above was photographed by  Greg Marinovich on an early morning when the ANC supporters burned a man alive who was suspected to be a Zulu spy from IFP. The picture depicted the extremes of hatred and brutality where in the burning man was axed on the head.  Marinovich who was fairly new to the photojournalism in 1991 said in his own words “I had been too scared to say anything to try to stop it”.

There was more. The Bang Bang club banged the world with one more Pulitzer Prize in 1994 ! Two out of four in the club hitting the highest honor of photography was something remarkable. That did happen when Kevin Carter shot the disturbing and gut wrenching scene in Sudan. “A hawk waiting for a starving child to die”. What Carter narrated in his picture was the worst of human misery. I  remember that I had restrained myself from taking a re-look at this picture during my college days while it circulated all over as a forwarded  e-mail.

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A hawk waiting for a starving Sudanese child to die. Photograph by Kevin Carter

Yet another bang came when Kevin Carter committed suicide soon after he won the Pulitzer prize. He had come under intense criticism for failing to help the starving child. The movie runs on a slow pace and yet leaves you traumatized and guilty in a way. Although Kevin Carter’s achievement  and his death has been undoubtedly hyped, a serious aspect of him being a drug addict is often neglected. Kevin Carter in his suicide note writes “I am depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and 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.” Psychoactive drugs that he was addicted to is known to alter perception, consciousness, cognition and behavior resulting in depression and mood changes. It could be that his act of death is more of a drug effect rather than the extremes of depression and guilt alone.

Nevertheless Taylor Kitsch (as Kevin Carter) is a perfect dude for being Carter in the movie. His sleepy accent is what makes you imagine Carter in a convincing way 🙂