'Starving Child Vulture' - analysis

Autor: Ľudmila Onuferová | 2.11.2009 o 18:20 | Karma článku: 0,00 | Prečítané:  7257x

...another essay from school.. of course there are mistakes because I dont wanna be perfect :-P....

Starving Child VultureStarving Child VultureKevin Carter 1993


In this world there are many photographs and photographers which capture unique moments of our life such as happiness, births, growing children or weddings but on the other hand there are many pictures which show another side of this cruel life for example: sadness, crying, dying or poverty especially in African countries.

However this essay will analyse a very sad but famous photograph in the world from a background of African countries called ‘Starving Child Vulture’. The photojournalist, Kevin Carter, took this picture during his trip in Southern Sudan in 1993 (Macleod, 1994). And also it will include information about its cultural context, background and technological construction of this particular image.

What is a background of this taken photograph?

In 1993, Carter and Silva went for a trip to Sudan to take some pictures of a starvation. Carter was looking for some chances to take photos of a famine situation and suffering victims (Moeller, 1991).

Once Carter got an opportunity to go to the open bush and he heard some calm crying. There he found a small girl lying on the ground trying to get to the food camp. Suddenly when he was ready to take a picture a vulture landed in a view. Carter was waiting around 20 minutes for a great shot believing that the vulture would spread its wings but it didn’t (Macleod, 1994).

According to his friend Silva, Carter was shocked as he had seen a starvation first time (Kevin Carter, date unknown) and Silva reclaims that he cried and spoke to God under the tree with a cigarette and ‘he kept saying he wanted to hug his daughter’ (Macleod, 1994).

Afterwards Carter received many of serious criticism for not helping the little girl (Kevin Carter, date unknown) but on the other hand he was asked to not touch any casualties of a starvation for fear of diffusing diseases. Anyway he uttered many times regret that he did not help her but this girl wasn’t unique and he could not to do more (Cinders, 2008).

What is a cultural context of this photograph?

This very expressive photograph taken by Carter helped awake the world and show many effects of poorness in Africa (Starving Child Vulture, 2008).

Therefore his photograph was sold to The New York Times and it appeared on March 26, 1993 (Lorch, 1993). According to the author Macleod (1994) the picture turned into ‘the icon of Africa's anguish’ immediately.

In addition it goes without saying that many people called The Times demanding more information about what had happened to the girl and the photograph was propagated across the world (Macleod, 1994).

However many people because of not helping the child blamed Carter. But as it was said before he was not able to touch any victims of starvation (Cinders, 2008). In spite of it is necessary to know important information about everything - what is going on behind the story - before judging it by its cover (Hirsch, E.D., Kett J.F., Trefil, J., 2002).

Anyway the St. Petersburg Time argued that ‘the man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene’ (Macleod, 1994).

Many photojournalists rejected such a criticism but it hit Carter very sadly and encouraged his self-doubts. (Mikkelson B., Mikkelson, D.P., 2008).

In 1994, May 23, Kevin Carter was awarded the Pulitzer Price for Feature Photography (Kevin Carter, date unknown).

Nevertheless he was very depressed by all affects of these circumstances and he started to think and talk about suicide (Macleod, 1994).

Once he left a letter when he wrote ‘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 . . . The last day of his life was on Wednesday, July 27 when he killed himself (Macleod, 1994).

In summary the cultural context is very strong in relation to Africa. The photograph change many aspects and helped to encourage many people to help African victims (Starving Child Vulture, 2008).

What is a technological construction of the ‘Starving Child Vulture’?

This very emotional documentary photograph shows very unpleasant event of a small girl lying on the ground trying to get up. In the background, not very far from the child, is a vulture patiently waiting for a death of this skinny African girl (Macleod, 1994).

The picture is very objective because Carter avoided any personal influences and showed all available information about girl’s life tragedy.

The main points of the image are clearly provided by sharpness and the background is blur which is highlighting important elements of the picture.

On the other hand the photo doesn’t include many shadows that could make the image more tragically but there is a rich contrast between the child, vulture and the background as these main subjects are very dark and the background is light. The settings such as a field or a bush of this photograph are very natural to the subjects.

The author used a direct approach as he showed a scene in a straight-forward style without using any strange angles. (Basic Strategies in Reading Photographs, date unknown). But the photographer was probably lying on the ground for the reason that the photo has very low position of the scene and it captures a really great and genuine shot.

Nevertheless the composition of the main subjects makes perfect and authentic shot with a very strong but sad idea.

At the end of the day this very tragic photograph has changed meaning of the whole world and people has become more open and considerate in this particular way of the poverty in Africa (Macleod, 1994). It has placed between other photographs that changed the world’ (Photos that changed the world, date unknown) and helped to move ahead thinking of people.



  • Hirsch, E.D., Kett J.F., Trefil, J., (2002). The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Rev Upd edition.
  • Moeller, D.S. (1991). Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, War and Death. New York.




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