I’m sure by now nearly everyone has seen the photo of the man, Ke Suk Han, just before he is killed by an oncoming subway train. I’m sure too, many have condemned the photographer for taking the photo instead of helping the man. If you haven’t, I won’t post it here, but google “doomed subway” and you’ll find it.
I don’t really understand the mindset of a news photographer, but his job is to record, not intervene. I believe the photographer took the photo instinctively. It’s what he’s trained to do; to photograph news. As disturbing as that is, think of many iconic photos, Pulitzer Prize winning photos that have been just as horrifying. I’m not saying this photographer snapped a Pulitzer-worthy shot. I’m not here to judge. I’m just saying the photographer is there to record events. That is what he did. If you condemn the man, you condemn all news photographers for providing an accurate historic record. That said, I don’t understand how any person can do that.
It happened during the LA Riots of 1992, camera men just kept recording the beating of Reginald Denny by an angry mob. I’d never seen anything so brutal, when someone lifted a cinder block, I turned away, certain I just saw the last moments of a man’s life (he lived, but is very impaired by his injuries). I can remember screaming at my television telling the cameraman to do something. How could he just watch this?! I wanted him to be a hero. I wanted him to get into the faces of the men, show them that he was recording them, knock them over the head with his camera, anything to make them stop beating the poor man. But he did nothing. It was up to the police, who while slow in arriving are trained to handle such emergencies. In the end, we have an historic record of peoples actions, and as in this case, can be used to identify the perpetrators of the beating and send them to prison.
My question isn’t why did R. Umar Abbasi take a photo instead of helping the man. My question is where was everyone else? It’s my understanding that subway platforms are swimming with people, yet there is no one near the man in the photo. There is no one for probably 20 feet in one direction. From the angle of the photo, it appears the photographer might have been the only one near enough to see what happened, but I’m betting money that he was not alone on the platform. Why didn’t any0ne attempt to pull the man to safety? I’ve only heard the photographer defend himself. I haven’t heard anything from any other bystanders as to why no one else stepped up to aid the poor man.
I guess I’m saying, I think I would have acted differently. ( I’m probably not alone in thinking that.) I think I would have tried to help Mr. Han. All 5’2″ of me, trying to pull him up; most likely ending up in the pit with him.
In 1992 I wanted that cameraman to jump into a brawling mob of 5 large angry men. I wanted him to act the way I think I would have. There were hundreds of people around the Denny beating. Though I watched only seconds, I don’t remember anyone stepping up to try and stop it.
We don’t want to see the ugly reality of life in our living rooms or shouted from the front page of newspapers. At least I don’t, that’s why I do not actively watch TV News, I haven’t held a newspaper in ages. I don’t want to see another Reginald Denny and watch people behave so like Neanderthals. I don’t want to know much about that part of life. Most of us don’t. I feel helpless and that’s a terrible feeling. I am just as unable to help Denny in 1992 as I am Ke Suk Han in 2012. I believe we are all hoping that someone would have at least tried to help us had we been in that position. We want a hero to step up.
There are very few heroes and the world is a dangerous place. Live in the moment.