Shocking pictures? Or a shocking truth?

A Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture, 1993 @Kevin Carter

A Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture, 1993 @Kevin Carter

In 1993, Kevin Carter shocked the world with his photograph of a starving Sudanese toddler stalked by a vulture. 

When this photograph capturing the suffering of the Sudanese famine crisis was published in the New York Times on March 26, 1993, the reader reaction was intense and not all positive. The controversy only grew when, a few months later, he won the Pulitzer Prize for the photo.

Crucified by the public opinion, and depressed after years documenting social tragedies, notably the Apartheid in South Africa, he committed suicide. 

Now, 22 years later, the picture of the young boy found lying face-down on a beach near Turkish resort of Bodrum (one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach Greece) is also causing an enormous controversy.

A Turkish police officer stands near of the drowned Syrian boy, 2015 @Reuters

A Turkish police officer stands near of the drowned Syrian boy, 2015 @Reuters

But are the photographs to be blamed? Are they the cause of the social/humanitarian crisis they have captured?

No, they have not caused them; they have "only" managed to iconically capture them.

Horrible is a society based on injustice, hate, segregation, discrimination; not the pictures that find a way to show it. Terrible is a society in which millions have to suffer and die so only a few can thrive. Shocking is a society that puts the capital above the universal human values and principles. 

"The truth hurts", they say. And that is perhaps why these pictures have touched so many people. Because they expose, clearly, and with a raw objectivity, the ugly reality many people prefer to pretend it doesn't exist. 

May these pictures be a wake-up call, a reminder that, despite some progress we've made over the last decades, there is still a lot to be done if we do want to live in a peaceful, equal and sustainable planet.

And as the late, and great, Eduardo Galeano once said:

"There are those who believe that destiny rests on the knees of the gods; but the truth is that it confronts the conscience of man with a burning challenge.”

A society in which people live at peace and with fraternity (for others, for Nature), regardless their cultural differences, should not be an utopia; it must be a possibility. One that is absolutely worth fighting for.

Bernardo Salce