It’s impossible to look at this photo without feeling horrified.
When you first see it, it’s hard to surpress a gasp. It’s not just the image – of a terrified man about to die – but the crass nature of the headline.
Is this someone’s life or a James Bond movie?
The man in the photo is Ki Suk Han, a 58 year old father from Queens who was pushed into the subway tracks and into the path of an on-coming train by “a deranged man” on Monday afternoon as he waited on the platform. Witnesses have reported that just after this photo was taken – showing Han frantically trying to lift himself up off the tracks, he was caught between the train and the platform and dragged to his death.
The front page of the tabloid newspaper – owned by Rupert Murdoch and edited by legendary Australian journalist Col Allen – has outraged readers and divided journalists.
The Atlantic Wire reporter Alexander Abad-Santos wrote:
There’s one big question about today’s intense cover of the New York Post: Why didn’t anyone help him? If there’s enough time to capture a dying man’s last moments before getting hit by an oncoming train that’s that worthy of a tabloid cover, couldn’t the photographer have lent a hand?
“Post freelance photographer” sounds like Abbassi got paid, “I just started running, running, hoping that the driver could see my flash,” explained Abbasi.
Getting a conductor’s attention with a flash doesn’t sound like the best idea to us.
There are reports from one witness that Han was pushed right before the train came and people on the platform were moving away from the ‘panhandler’ who pushed him and so couldn’t help in time.
Many tabloid photographers have rallied to the defence of Abbassi - all anonymously, after The Atalantic Wire approached them for their opinion on the morality of taking – and presumably selling- the photo. Said one:
There’s at least a dozen other people on that platform, any able-bodied person could have tried (assuming we actually knew how much time the victim had between the fall, and impact) to try and help him.
Interestingly, we don’t ask this of any other photographer covering other atrocities and far more violent scenes that move over wires every day from the Middle East and elsewhere. We’re never hearing the question: Why didn’t such and such a photographer help? New York isn’t Libya, but the job is the same – we document the human drama.
All terribly tragic. We weren’t there. Who knows what we might have done in the terror and drama of that moment. But what about the decision to put it on the front page with that headline?
UPDATE: The photographer who took the photo, R. Umar Abbasi, appeared on a US chat show to defend his decision to take the photo.
Is there any real public interest being served there? Is it even newsworthy or just ghoulish?