The Murder of Ki Suk Han: Should a Photo of a Man About to Die Be Considered Photojournalism?

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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    The journos certainly exploited human suffering in New Orleans after Katrina. Without, it seems, offering anybody a ride out on their press vehicles.

  2. This photo reminded me of the image by Stanley Forman for the Boston Herald, of the fire escape collapse in Boston in 1975 (he talks about that photo in this bbc article:… The other images are iconic but the controversy surrounding the picture of Ki Suk Han and Stanley Forman’s image are somewhat similar, though from what I have read the controversy with the Forman picture was more because people felt that the woman’s privacy was invaded/violated than today’s accusations of sensationalism to breed sales & suggestions that the photographer should have helped in some way (from interviews with him it seems that he was worried for his own safety, which is understandable considering how violently this happened, and the time time was rapid at approximately 22 seconds from start to finish… The image, while tragic, isn’t a particularly great image and it’s clear that he wasn’t thinking about framing, camera settings, or anything of the sort. It also looks like a telephoto shot that has been cropped and enlarged for printing, so I don’t think he was right on top of the situation as the photo might suggest at cursory glance.).

    I do wonder how many people may have taken iPhone/phone camera shots of the events but are scared to share them with officials because of the internet smackdown the photographer has been subjected to. Many of the comments on some of the news sites are really showcasing the internet’s armchair quarterbacks.

  3. There’s something sort of magical about the hypocrisy of journalists and pundits who regularly cover and opine about wars, natural disasters, and genocides, fretting about whether or not the subway “death photo” is “real journalism.” If it had been a photo taken in a war zone of a man about to be executed, it would have won the Pulitzer. We have become a soft and flabby culture that’s more than happy to see photos of approaching death as long as they’re 5000 miles away. Not so much when it’s in our own subway.

  4. Can you get to the person in question before the train hits?
    Can you do is safely or do you accept the risk to yourself?

    If no then taking photos is newsworthy. His reasoning though was he was trying to get the attention of the driver with the camera and the settings weren’t even right which may or may not be true. In situations of war where it’s not feasible to stop someone murdering since you’ll probably be murdered but your photos can help bring awareness then it can be good. In this situation it seems more tricky…I’m not sure how fast these trains go so I dunno if he had the time to drop camera, run to the guy, pull him out before the train hits. There’s also the issue that in doing so YOU may be pulled down by the guy, especially if you are small and he is larger which means you’re putting your life in danger. Sure we SHOULD help where possible but it’s not always something we have to do. Why should I put my life in danger to save someone else? Is my life not worth protecting? I admire those who save others and I’d probably try myself but if I see the risk is too great then I am probably going to try keep myself safe ESPECIALLY if I have a family that relies on me.

    This is also the U.S where someone has been sued for pulling someone from a car, they got injured by the good Samaritan who believed the car would burst into flames. So help and be liable for any injury or stand back and hope they’re able to free themselves. In Australia at least I believe we are protected by good Samaritan laws so we don’t get sued like that. There is another issue at play here too, this was someone who was pushed by another so there is potential risk in helping them as the attacker may turn to you.

    The image can be considered selfish but it’s also a rare glimpse into another issue, others standing around whilst this guy was in trouble, others who were closer than the photographer. I think the newspapers headline is pretty bad though with the DOOMED.


  1. [...] In the wake of the brutal murder of Ki Suk Han, who died when pushed in front of a train, S.E. Smith examines the role of photojournalism in exploiting human suffering.  [...]

  2. [...] The Murder of Ki Suk Han: Should a Photo of a Man About to Die Be Considered Photojournalism? /* post_widget("#but1"); Filed Under: Good Feed Blog Tagged With: flushing, Kathryn DeHoyos, man pushed to his death, new york police department, new york subway, Oasis Restaurant, paul j. brown, queens boulevard, The New York Times About Kathryn DeHoyosKathryn DeHoyos currently resides on the outskirts of Austin, TX. She is the News Editor for the Good Feed Blog and absolutely loves what she does. She is the happy mommy to a wild 2 year old girl-child, and is blissfully happy being un-married to her life partner DJ. [...]

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