This Monday, Ki Suk Han was struck and killed by a train New York City’s Times Square subway station. The incident was documented by R. Umar Abbasi, a freelance photographer for the New York Post who happened to be waiting for the same train.
Han was pushed onto the tracks, and struggled to escape for over a minute before the train hit – Abbasi photographed his doomed final moments. The New York Post controversially printed his pictures on the cover of their Tuesday issue, inciting a deluge of questions about the ethics behind the photo.
Should the New York Post have published the documentation of Han before his imminent death? Why didn’t witnesses help him out of the tracks – and why, especially, did Abbasi, who had the time to snap several well-composed photos, instead use that time to help save Han?
The incident brings to light the predicament so many photojournalists face – their job is to document, but if they can help, should they? Did Abbasi, in taking the photos, or the Post, in publishing them, cross a line in ethical journalism, or were they just doing their jobs?
Alisa Solomon, Professor, Columbia Journalism School