New York Post subway death photo under fire

by | Dec 6, 2012 | News

By Andrew Schopp

The death of a New York man is being overshadowed by controversy surrounding a photograph taken seconds before a subway car struck and killed him.

Ki-Suck Han, 58, of New York City was shoved onto the tracks of the Times Square subway station on Monday by a homeless man during an altercation.

According to the New York Post Han, “desperately tried to scramble back to the platform,” before the train struck him. Han died of injuries in hospital.

Tuesday’s cover-page of The New York Post. COURTESY: The New York Post

Freelance photographer R. Umar Abbasi is facing heavy media scrutiny for taking a photo for the Post which ran the image on the front-page Tuesday with the headline: “Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die. DOOMED.”

Abbasi says his intent was to use the cameras flash to catch the subway operators attention.

“I just started running, running, hoping that the driver could see my flash,” Abbasi told the Post.

On Wednesday police in New York charged Naeem Davis, 30, with second-degree murder, according to

Anne Zbitnew, Humber College news photography instructor, said Abbasi acted on impulse and should not be judged for taking the photo, but for selling it.

“The thing that really bugs me, the big point I think is, he sold the picture for money to the New York Post,” Zbitnew told Humber News.

“He is benefiting from the images.  It’s one thing to take the photo, but then to sell it, and make money off it, that’s the worst part of all in my opinion,” she said.

Abbasi appeared on The Today Show on Wednesday in New York to defend accusations that he profited from the tragic incident.

“I would call it licensing to use it. Selling a photograph of this nature sounds morbid. I licensed these photographs,” he said when asked about the sale of the photo.

Professional photojournalists chimed in on the issue on a article which asked : “Would You Have Taken the Post Subway Photo?”

There are no winners. There is a poor man who lost his life, a train diver that killed a person, and a photographer who witnessed it all,” said Stan Alost, associate professor of photojournalism at Ohio University.

Zbitnew said the journalistic value of the images is not enough to warrant print, especially on the front-page. 

The blame in this controversy lies directly with the Post for publishing such a callous, crude and truly tasteless headline while at the same time wrongly splashing the tragedy on the front page,” John Kaplan, a Pulitzer Prize winner for feature photography, told Gawker.

While criticism of the Post rages on, many people question why Abbasi snapped the photo rather than try to help Han back onto the platform.

“If this thing happened again with the same circumstances, whether I had a camera or not, and I was running toward him, there was no way I could have rescued Mr Han,” Abbasi told The Today Show.

“What really surprises me were the people who were maybe 100 feet or 150 feet away from Mr. Han, they did not reach out to help him,” he said.