I wrote the angry response below when I heard the religious speaker Anne Atkins on ‘Thought for the Day’ condemn the life and work of the South African photojournalist Kevin Carter. Mine is an angry and impolite not well executed rant. I was not going to post it or send it to her.
But then I heard her broadcasting again this morning and I decided to post it anyway. She was again this morning on Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ this time broadcasting about how she cannot relate to the plight of 400 refugee’s whom have drowned at sea in a desperate attempt to seek sanctuary in Europe.
She states she finds it easier to imagine and grieve over the terrible plight of one murdered young woman or one child who died in an accident. She is right. Its difficult to relate on an emotional level to tragic circumstances described as happening to 400 people.
What she needs to help her grasp the reality for the migrants is an emotional handle. An emotional handle or aide to help her grasp the human reality in the plight of these 400 human beings.
She needs to meet the mother of a person who has drowned or see the work of a photojournalist to give her that emotional bridge to understanding.She needs a human connection or some way of grasping the human reality in the gigantic horror of 400 desperate people drowning at sea.
If a powerful image existed not only might Anne Atkins be able to relate to the plight of the individual suffering of those involved but the chances of governments acting to address properly this unfolding tragedy would be so much increased.
But this tragic occurrence happened without being witnessed by journalists nor by its very nature is this occurrence very likely to be filmed, so it remains hidden and obscure and very difficult to relate to.
In exactly the same way starvation and famine would be difficult to imagine and relate to if some photojournalists had not given us powerful emotional handles to grasp on to . Their photographs allowing some level of human connection to the starving. Allowing us some understanding of the horror and depravity that we will never experience.
I am thinking of one image in particular.
Cheers Jez Coulson
Response to Anne Atkins :
".. Responsibility can be brutal. Kevin Carter won the world’s attention for famine with his photograph of a toddler being stalked by a vulture, as well as vociferous criticism for being a vulture himself. And indeed the Pulitzer prize. The following year his suicide note read, “I am haunted by… memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain... of starving children.” .." Anne Atkins
What is this about ?
Some more thoughtlessness of the day ……..Again ……. Another religious person speaking on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the day’ …… takes the moral high ground over photographers and photojournalists ……..
This time its Anne Atkins gloating about the suicide of photojournalist Kevin Carter.
Why is it again necessary as part of some unrelated religious spiel to just in passing kick at and condemn photography? In this case damn a particular photojournalist? Why is Anne Atkins so sure her role in life is so vastly morally superior to the role and the life of the photojournalist Kevin Carter?
What has Anne Atkins ever done that she thinks she has the moral high ground over Kevin Carter ? …….. Oh yeah she slags off the gay community and attacks church goers that celebrate gay Christians ……… articles she has written have had Press Complaints judgements against them. Even ‘The Sun’ was forced to apologize after publishing an article written by her. She stated nasty unproven prejudiced allegations against gay men were proven facts : Quote: “ this is not opinion: it is fact. The life expectancy of a gay man without HIV is a shocking 43 years" and "a gay man is, alarmingly, 17 times more likely to be a paedophile than a straight man". The PCC ruled that these were not facts. “
Real nice ……. A speaker pushing nasty prejudiced views like this in ‘The Sun’ gets 3 minutes to push her equally dubious religious views on all of us weekly on BBC Radio 4.
I assume she lives in Cambridge ….. She certainly appears to broadcast from the Cambridge studio of the BBC at least …….. her wikipedia page mentions she was educated in a string of privileged private schools and attended Oxford University and has been to Paris ……… but Im pretty sure she has never been to a war or a famine zone ……. Certainly it is not mentioned if she has ………. Anyway I can’t find any reference to her work raising millions of dollars to overcome starvation and famine …….. unlike the work of Kevin Carter.
Kevin Carter is a well known photojournalist primarily because of one very famous photograph of a small child famine victim with a vulture behind. This is a striking and terrible image that instantly wrenches at your heart and brings tears to your eyes, because it so graphically shows the horror of famine. The image was used to raise millions of dollars for famine relief.
Anne Atkins implies Kevin Carter is a ‘vulture’ himself because he made this photograph. She thinks he woke up one day and suddenly ‘took responsibility’ for being such a grim vulture type and therefore committed suicide. This is disgustingly presented as a correct and fitting if a ‘brutal’ way of ‘taking responsibility’ for his life as a photojournalist … sorry I mean ‘vulture’.
Obviously, what I think is that Kevin Carter undertook a dangerous but very worthy and important job. A job that took a very heavy toll on him. The results of his work meant that people across the globe suddenly took notice of starvation and violence in Africa. His work allowed us all to understand instantly and actually care about very serious situations affecting people on the other side of the world. Individual examples of his photographic work moved hundreds of thousands of people to donate to try to end a famine. The sheer power of his work was recognized by the Pulitzer Prize being bestowed, he also received large volumes of criticism from people who have never visited a land in the grip of starvation and have not the wit to imagine what that might be like. He received hate mail from ignorants who somehow mindlessly think a photographer can fix it to save people or miraculously act so that there is no more starvation for the tens of thousands that he sees affected by the famine.
Anne Atkins is clearly one of them. This ‘gay bashing’ Oxford educated daughter of privilege, broadcasting from Cambridge who appears to have done nothing in or for the developing world ….. and apparently nothing for famine victims in particular ….. can gloat at Kevin Carters suicide because she is so certain she has the moral high ground over him…… BECAUSE of his work in famine zones ……… She is certain that pushing her unsubstantiated views for a living without leaving Cambridge to investigate or fact-check is morally superior to anyone witnessing reality (or ‘being a vulture’ as she calls it) ……. Of course she is entirely dependent on the work of journalists like Kevin Carter for any information she has for her articles and sermons ….. Otherwise she like all of us would literally know nothing at all about most news stories never mind famine and war and its effects ……. She takes the knowledge journalists like Kevin Carter have imparted for granted ……. As if she could magically have that knowledge without him or a single other journalist ever traveling to witness such war or famine ……….. She so detests those journalists like Kevin Carter for their presence in those places and she presents it as sinful to be there with a camera ……. She is therefore preaching that once Kevin Carter ‘took responsibility’ for his life as a ‘vulture’ (photojournalist) he of course knew he had to commit suicide.
I am not sure how Christian speakers make this kind of vilification and nastiness part of their religion ? As I said to the last self righteous Christian broadcaster condemning photography and photographers on Thought for the Day…… “ Why not ask yourself : ‘Which group of relatively powerless artists or journalists would Jesus choose to vilify and condemn?’”
It’s not the first time I’ve heard this kind of thing on ‘Thought for the day’ …… But I have to say Anne Atkins takes the biscuit with this one …….. I imagine her thought process must be something like this : ……..……. hmmmm ……… Which powerless person would Jesus vilify and condemn ? ………. ……… Maybe a photojournalist ? …… Yes, its easy to whip up moral panic against those guys and gals ……… Now which photojournalist shall I condemn? …….. hmmm …. Maybe one who lays completely powerless and voiceless in his grave ? ……. Hang on …… What about a photojournalist who has tragically committed suicide ? ……….Ha ….. I know ….. One who’s suicide may have been in part provoked by a storm of self righteous and thoughtless hate mail and vilification ! ……. Yes, a photojournalist who suffered from vilification delivered by so many who never left their comfortable arm chairs ……….. Yes, how funny, I myself am just like all those folks who did nothing to address famine but instead just vilified the messenger …….. Yes, I can vilify and condemn him some more from my Radio 4 pulpit ……. Ha ha ha how perfect …….. After all who could be more powerless and forgotten than a depressed photojournalist who has committed suicide …….. Well apart from a forgotten famine victim of course ……… but the reality of the harsh lives and deaths of some people living in Africa can so easily be dismissed from here. I have to say those realities certainly seem to disappear from view for me ….. When I am occupying the towering moral high ground in the Starbucks amongst the dreaming spires of Cambridge …… Yes, in the oh so marvelously comfortable South Eastern counties of England. Yes, ah yes…… stuff the dead South African photojournalist and stuff the people of Africa his hard won work brought attention to … ha ….. Why would a self righteous self styled Christian speaker give them a second thought ? …… Yes, lets just condemn the one and forget the others ! ….. Oh yes marvelous I’ll chuck that into my morning moralizing tomorrow …. ‘Yes, please do give me another double decaf with just a twist of lemon … oh yes and another one of those lovely cakes too'.
That must be her thought process…… either that or she is just a complete know-nothing who just vilifies Kevin Carter out of nasty knee jerk ignorance.
Cheers Jez XXXXXXX
PS ……. Kevin Carter worked with three friends collectively they were sometimes known to others as the Bang Bang Club. …….. I was with Ken Oosterbroek, Kevin Carter’s best friend and Bang Bang Club mate, when Ken was shot and killed in Tokosa township, I tried with others save his life .... but in vain ….. I gave him heart massage and mouth to mouth resuscitation but he died before we reached hospital in a blood soaked armored car ……… Greg Marinovich another Bang Bang club friend was also shot and badly wounded with a ‘sucking wound' in his chest in that same incident he survived his trip to Baragwanarth Hospital in another armored car that day ……. Greg went on to be shot I think four more times in different incidents …… Another club member Joao Silva in the end lost both his legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan …….. Another photographer friend of Kevin Carter’s close to the club guys Gary Bernard was with me in the armored vehicle as I tried to save Ken …… he like Kevin Carter also went on to commit suicide ……… Between them all these guys produced important work documenting apartheid ….. Some of their work is credited with helping speed apartheid’s end ……. Other pictures they made are again specifically credited by commentators with lessening the violence in the transition to democracy ….. Four photojournalists central to the book called: ‘The Bang Bang Club’ died in South Africa before their time …… Two went on to cover other stories of world importance in other places in Africa and Joao Silva as I mentioned also worked in the war’s for Iraq and Afghanistan before being terribly injured …. None of those guys were or are unscarred mentally or physically. As their American friend James Natchwey Time Magazine Photojournalist is quoted as saying in relation to them and to the serious important job of photojournalism: ‘ No one does this work to make themselves happy’.
PPS ……. Read that PS paragraph above once more ….. Then consider the actual reality of life and truth-telling in the townships and with the refugees fleeing the famines and wars of Africa …… Then consider again the self righteous Anne Atkins sitting in the comfortable Cambridge Starbucks at the very heart of classic privilege, imagining up her sermon condemning the life and the important brave work of photojournalist Kevin Carter in her know-nothing aside as she sips her coffee.
PPPS ………. It is possible to watch a Hollywood movie about these times in SA ……… ‘The Bang Bang Club’ ………. A film based on the book by the same name written by Joao and Greg an account of the lives of Kevin Carter, Ken O, Greg M and Joao S and others of their crew known collectively in real life as: The Bang Bang Club.
PPPPS …… Here is the entire broadcast with the offensive paragraph condemning Kevin Carter just maliciously chucked in ………. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02k6cjm
PPPPPS……. “ We have chosen War Child as our charity because we have been very influenced by the scenes of suffering children we have seen as a result of the numerous conflicts around the world. We want to do something to help children who are less fortunate than we are.
We will be taking part in three activities to raise money for War Child. The Big Red Silence represents the fact that war children frequently have no voice…… “ ….. I literally just opened this email from my daughters school …. I notice their spur to action is not the moralizing of Anne Atkins or the others on ‘Thought for the day’ …… but as is so often the case……. The school’s decision to care and to act is due to the work of photojournalists …. Yes, education and compassion as so often happens is sparked here by again by others who work in the same profession as did Kevin Carter. ……..
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