My family and I just got back from spending our Holiday Vacation in New York City. Early on Tuesday (12/4) morning, I took the subway down to Rockefeller Center to photograph the Christmas Tree before the sun came up. I left our hotel room about 4:45 AM and took the subway downtown. As I was walking the few avenues over to Rockefeller Center, I saw a news crew set up at the top of the 49th Street and 7th Avenue Subway. It wasn't until later that I knew why....
Tomorrow marks one week since a NYC man was pushed to his death in front of a moving subway. Initially this news did not shock me. I'm not trying to sound morbid, but I know that this wasn't the first NYC subway death, nor will it be the last. But what really caught my attention was the fact that the New York Post published a photo that was snapped seconds before the man was crushed to death by the oncoming subway train. If you haven't seen the photo or read the article ~ please take a minute and read it here.
57th Street Subway
© Corrie M Avila
My first thought was who in the world took that photograph and why was that person not helping the man pull himself out? I won't get too "social worker-y" on you, but that man in the subway was in shock. Frozen in trauma and in fear looking at the oncoming train. He CLEARLY needed help, even an outstretched hand would have been something... possibly saving his life. But what does he have? A photo of his imminent death. A reminder to his family members of how horrible his last seconds were as he stared death in the face.
The photographer's name is R. Umar Abbasi and his story is that he saw the man on the subway tracks and chose to use his camera's flash to warn the subway driver that there was a problem on the tracks. He also said that he was further down on the subway platform, too far to do anything. According to the article and video in the above link by the NY Post, he also said he feared for himself because at one point the supposed perp was coming straight at him. Abassi also redirects the questions to all the other people that were there closer to the victim. Why didn't they help him?
In an interview with Anderson Cooper and Dr. Drew, they discuss the possibility of the "Bystander Effect." That the more people around, the less likely they are to help someone in need. Abassi also speaks to the "armchair critics" saying we don't know what it was like because we weren't there.
I don't know what lens he had on his camera, I don't know what his settings were. He claims he didn't even know he had this shot until the police were looking at his photos trying to glean usable information in the to catch the perpetrator. Lily O'Donnell writes an article supporting Abassi, stating that what he did was strictly photojournalism. Read her article here.
70th Street and Broadway Subway
Taken one day after the Subway Death
ISO 1600 ~ 30mm ~ f/4.0 ~ 1/60sec
© Corrie M Avila
What are your thoughts? Is this photojournalism or neglect to help a human in crisis? What would you do if in the same situation?
Deep in Thought....
Here are some additional links: