Irby: Blame NY Post editors, not photographer, for subway death photo

The New York Post has been criticized for today’s front page, which shows Ki Suk Han just after he was pushed onto a subway track. Journalists have focused on photographer R. Umar Abbasi, asking why he didn’t put down his camera and help Han. But Poynter senior faculty Kenny Irby blames the paper’s editors. Irby says by email:

The moment just before death is a delicate fraction of a second and the NY Post print edition and cover screen image lacks compassion for the victim, his family, his friends and the Post’s audience. In a few words it is disgusting, disconcerting, insensate and intrusive.

I get that the photographer, Mr. Abbasi, made a decision to document the imminent demise of Mr. Ki Suk Han, because he may have not been strong enough to lift the injured man from the track himself and thus he made a decision to document after attempting to warn the conductor by “rapidly flashing” his camera’s flash unit.

There are times when authentically documented images are indeed too disturbing and cross the line of dignity and integrity. This moment was too private in my view.

And yes, I am saying that there are times that a photographic reporter may witness situations that are not published, broadcast or posted for public reviewing. The NY Post had several solid alternatives (just view their video).

My problem thus is with the publication’s editors, who clearly had alternative photographs to use and chose to use the most disturbing.

Related: Tabloid photographers defend colleague who snapped NY Post cover shot (Joe Pompeo/Capital New York) | NPPA’s John Long tells Jeff Bercovici: “Your job as a human being, so to speak, outweighs your job as a photojournalist”

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  • Seattle-aightt

    His story of running, running taking pictures so the train operator can be alerted with his flash, is completely bogus.There were 3 photos, all taken around the same distance from the victim. Two were of Mr Han sitting on the ground, and the train not in the background yet. In both of those, you can tell the photographer was standing at the edge of the platform taking pictures. I’m not saying Abbasi could have saved the victim, but he could have at least made an effort, instead of deciding that taking pictures is more of a priority. He made the situation a godd@mn photo shoot! Shameful!