By Mark McNease
About a year and a half ago I was walking along 7th Avenue toward Chelsea. It was a warm summer day and the sidewalks were jammed. People don’t so much walk in Manhattan as maneuver; there’s a sense about living here that compels people to rush for no reason, to dash for the sake of dashing.
I saw a commotion just up ahead. I’d recently purchased a Nikon, having started to indulge the shutterbug in me. I’m the guy who took all those pictures on all those trips and threw the developed photos in a box in the closet. Now that everything was digital it was so much easier. So, I’m walking downtown, and suddenly I see that a large woman is face down in the middle of the sidewalk. She’s wearing jeans and a top, and her glasses are on the sidewalk next to her face. She is not moving. She may well not have been breathing. My first instinct was to take a photo … how often would I come upon a scene like this, even in New York City? But as several people dialed 911 to get her help, I realized that the cost of that photograph would be a piece of my soul. A snapshot of my integrity, and that every time I looked at it I would grow smaller. And if I posted it on my blog? There would soon be nothing left of my conscience but a stain.
She was in the most vulnerable state a human being can be. She was in public, on a sidewalk, face down, with people walking around her while some tried to get her assistance. To stare at her, let alone take a picture of her, was to violate her.
And that is what R.Umar Abbasi did to Ki Shuk Han in the subway station this week. He violated that man at the very end of his life. He can go on all the morning talk shows and defend his actions, or lack of: he was trying to warn the train conductor with his flash (a laughable excuse, had the results not been so horrible); no one else was helping! (well, you could say that about the Jews in Germany, too, or the AIDS victims who died by the tens of thousands in my lifetime).
The truth is he did not have to take that picture. Once he did, he did not have to give it to the NY Post. He could have given it to the police, or simply done the right thing and kept it to himself, preferably destroying it. It is snuff porn, imminent death that ended up on the front page of a New York tabloid for all the death fetishists in this city to mentally masturbate to while pretending to be horrified. Abbasi is a vulture, always on the periphery, waiting for the chance of a lifetime to get a picture of someone about to die. Perhaps someday he’ll realize it and put his camera away forever.