On Tuesday, a New York man was pushed to his death at the Times Square subway station—and a controversial photo captured the moment just before the train struck. Now, as investigations continue, people are questioning the morality and virtue of publishing such a photo.
The photo, which was taken by freelance photographer R. Umar Abbasi, was published on the front page ofthe NY Post Tuesday. Ki-Suck Han, the man who was struck, looks head-on into the subway train’s headlights, arms poised to pull himself up onto the platform but unable to get out of the way in time.
Abbasi, who was waiting to catch a train when the incident occurred, said he was trying to alert the subway driver that someone was on the tracks by using his camera’s flash. “I wanted to help the man, but I couldn’t figure out how to help,” he says, adding that he wasn’t strong enough to lift the man off the tracks. “It all happened so fast.”
Han was able to pull him self partway up, but became trapped between the platform and the train when it pulled in. He died shortly afterwards. Now people are asking if The Post went too far by publishing the photo on their front page with the caption “Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die.”
The morality code among professional photojournalists, according to Kenny Irby at Poynter Institute is “to document or assist” in such situations. Irby is an expert in the ethics of visual journalism, which has a long history of capturing controversial photos and sharing them with the pubic.
Al Roker from the “Today show, among other media outlets, also gave his opinion. “I’m sorry. Somebody’s on the tracks. That’s not going to help,” he said.
Such a photo brings out strong emotions in many people, and is reminiscent of those same controversial photos of the Holocaust, of any war really, and of other things we’d rather not see. Now the question remains for us to consider: did NY Post and Abbasi go too far by taking the photo and allowing it to be published?