New York Post faces backlash over front-page photo of man ‘about to die’ on subway track

The front page of today’s New York Post shows 58-year-old Ki Suk Han pushed onto a subway track, “about to die.” The cover photo was shot by a Post freelance photographer who happened to be on the platform at the time.

Post freelance photographer R. Umar Abbasi — who had been waiting on the platform of the 49th Street station — ran toward the train, repeatedly firing off his flash to warn the operator.

“I just started running, running, hoping that the driver could see my flash,” said Abbasi, whose camera captured chilling shots of Suk’s tragic fight for his life. …

Abbasi said the driver saw his camera flashing but told him he couldn’t stop the train fast enough.

Abbasi’s online portfolio includes 24 images categorized as “photojournalism,” out of about 350 total. Other photos include animals, children, and many nude or “evocative” photos of female models.

He seems to have shot at least a half-dozen stories for the Post previously, but only since September. They include crime scenesapartments, and street activity.

Update: Abbasi has spoken about the incident in interviews with the Post and The New York Times — “Every time I close my eyes, I see the image of death.”

Warning: The front-page image appears below, don’t continue reading if you don’t want to see it.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • gayleaplouffe

    The HEADLINE offends me the most! Otherwise, a reader wouldn’t know the outcome until they read the article. Look at the size of DOOMED and on the front page no less! Hearst’s yellow journalism lives on in the media . . . attention catching photos and headlines published to sell!!! It is nauseating . . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/garydmercer Gary Dean Mercer

    The photo isn’t a problem. The sensational headline is offensive. Whats all this doom stuff? Horrible and in poor taste. The photographer did his job. Capturing history is what press photographers are supposed to do. So you suggest that photographs of Robert Kennedy being shot shouldn’t have been printed? Get Real. This attack on photographers needs to stop. The newspaper should be ashamed at putting this on the front cover and the sensational Headline. That was in poor taste and lacked any sympathy or decency.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cris.malla1 Shirish Malla

    DOOMED??? WHAT THE HELL ‘s that supposed to mean???? is NYP making fun of the incident?? sounds like it!!! how ridiculous!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Noone/1659067481 Andrew Noone

    Yes, my imagination was not enough to comprehend what it might be like moments before a train hits someone. I also needed to know, I mean REALLY NEEDED to know what that might be like, so thanks to the Post, now I do. Very informative indeed…

  • http://www.facebook.com/tobin.frost.9231 Tobin Frost

    Exactly how I feel. Use the photo. Sure. Its a grim but great photograph. The headline just had me thinking wtf immediately though.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Hi, Mitch. Thanks for commenting. At the time this article was written, little was known about the photographer, whose choices were being scrutinized. In seeking more information about him (including through an interview request), we found his portfolio. I wish it had included a bio or other details about his approach to his work, but it didn’t. A description of the contents, and of his previous work for the Post, was all we could provide. At worst that information would prove irrelevant, at best it might shed at least a little light onto his professional history. Either way, there seemed no harm to him or others in providing it. So, that’s why we did. –Julie Moos, Director of Poynter Online

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyron.s.thomas Kyron Skela Thomas

    You know the post was boycotted years ago for a Front page message and photo that they posted that was disturbing to many readers and how long did that last? About 2 weeks. Why? Because they dropped the price by 25 cents to regain sales and readers. So now what are we going to do as readers? If the media can make sport icons lose jobs or get traded, what can we do to stop the media?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=717338374 Mitch Owens

    Am curious as to the tone of this article, particularly the parsing of the photographer’s online portfolio. By pointing out that the portfolio includes only 24 images that Poynter believes could be called “photojournalism,” does that mean that Poynter is questioning his job description? It is an online portfolio, not a catalogue raisonée, so presumably shows varied aspects of his work as a photographer, whether snapshots he’s pleased with to actual assignment photography. Also, another observation: Do these sorts of discussions happen when disturbing photographs are taken in a war or recording people fleeing a natural catastrophe, when, presumably, the photographers could have helped rather than snapped? Nick Ut’s 1972 photograph of nine-year-old Kim Phuc during the Vietnam War, fleeing a napalm attack, comes to mind.

  • Chrigid

    Hard to believe anyone could possibly expect The Post, or any other Murdoch enterprise, to make a positive contribution. However, in this particular case, they have. The photo is informative: this is what it’s like moments before a train hits a human. Stark reality, somewhat like the skulls saints kept on their desk as reminders that death comes to all. Far less disturbing than a pool of blood, far more tasteful than poking cameras at the survivors and asking them how they feel. I would have deleted “doomed” from the headline.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tish.parmenter Tish Parmenter

    Way to go NY Post! You’ve successfully proven that you don’t have a single drop of class! May whomever composed or approved this cover “doomed” never find themselves the source of someones equally trashy,cold, & desperate drive for sales! Love to the man in this photo and his family.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nothingornexttonothing Barry Graham

    thats it? no splatter?

  • http://www.facebook.com/SALTYPEAKS801 Mario Miller

    Nice. Awesome pic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/henry.d.case.1 Henry Dorsett Case

    I find it interesting that so many people are condemning this decision, yet everyone of them has looked upon this photograph…willingly. The fact of the matter is, people want the news, good or bad. Death and violence is commonplace in today’s world, much of that is due to the media so why is it so surprising that this photo was published? People like to point out how others should run their lives and business’, but when faced with a tough decision that directly impacts their own lives, many would choose to do something just as controversial or unacceptable, given that no one was hurt by the decision. The publishing of this photo did not bring harm to anyone There are of course some emotional repercussions for the people involved, but this man was already dead. It is tragic yes, but this is what it is. Some may say the photographer could have saved him had he not been taking pictures but that is unlikely. This of course was just an attempt to sell papers, and give The Post some PR by stirring up this controversy. Like it or not, The Post is not likely to close up shop over this. In the end, they just gave the people what they wanted. Information. Because everyone has to know everyone else’s business. I agree with Katie Booher Ayers in her comment regarding the headline of the article. I find that more offensive than the actual photo. Yes, this man is about to die, but some more tact could have been employed as to how it was titled.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=512756616 Jennifer Montgomery

    The ultimate example of media insensitivity.

  • Marcia Corey

    Yes, I must wonder why you also published the picture here. :-(

  • jeffsonderman

    Touché, Ron.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ron.newman4 Ron Newman

    Of course, in writing this Poynter has now also republished an image of Gothamist’s republished image of the Times’ republished image of the Post’s image. So they could ask themselves the same question.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749911534 facebook-749911534

    In Japan and Taiwan media, where I have been observing for 20 years, the national newspapers and tabloids even would NEVER do this. They would show the murder scene, after, with yellow tape perhaps, OR they might show the actual moment of impact or like the NYC photo here, but they would BLACK OUT the man’s face and body, or use MOSAICS filter to make the image mosaiced and therefore not really seeable. That is the right way to do it. The Post did it bad.

  • http://twitter.com/SusanAKirk Susan Kirk

    Not wrong to publish it. It portrays the image of the brutality of the human race.

  • Rick Son

    Is it me or is it not a good idea to put a friggin fence where the dark line is!

  • LanceThruster

    Sad and tragic but newsworthy in my opinion. Who pushed him? What might the man have done to survive (Lay down between the rails? Leap back up onto the platform? Dive to other side of tracks?)? It reminds me of the debate of the appropriateness/inappropriateness of war coverage. Reality is what it is regardless of the filtering.

  • GrigorijGregKail

    New York Post is a crappy tabloid, so what did we all expect. The title of this article, on the other hand, has announced a “backlash”, while there seem to be couple of Tweeter screenshots to backup the claim. It is obvious, that this entry’s purpose is to get the clicks by showing the very same picture, while using the whole backlash as an excuse.

  • Guest

    Perhaps. Does that make it okay?

  • http://www.facebook.com/lbrto.liberato Lbrto Liberato

    wouldn’t the other papers do the same thing???

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=7719542 Katie Booher Ayers

    I don’t know that they were wrong to use it, it IS news and the photographer said he was firing his camera in an effort to warn the driver. I think what’s more egregious is the headline they put with the photo – “this man is about to die…DOOMED.” Really NYP?

  • http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Brent-Clanton/1006473011 Brent Clanton

    This is not Journalism–it’s Oogle-ism, Gawkism, at its worst. Please show me how publishing this photo uplifts, enriches and serves the community of readers of The New York Post. Epic #Fail