Photographer Under Fire for Capturing NY Subway Tragedy

A controversial news story is sweeping the photography world as well as mainstream news this week. On Monday, December 3, freelance photographer R. Umar Abbasi, while on an unrelated assignment for the New York Post, captured some disturbing photos of a man trying to climb off the subway tracks as an oncoming train approaches. The next day, one of Abbasi’s photos appeared on the front cover of the New York Post with the following headline — “DOOMED: pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die.”

ny post train cover

NY Post Controversial Cover Photo

The New York Post has released a report on the tragedy, which can be viewed below:

The man struck by the subway train, 58-year-old husband and father Ki Suk Han, apparently had been trying to break up an altercation when a man pushed him away and he fell onto the tracks. Abbasi, who was hundreds of yards away, said that he witnessed the event from a distance, and began running towards the train and repeatedly setting off the flash on his camera in hopes of signaling the operator to stop. Abbasi explained that this is how he happened to capture the photos in question.

“As a photographer, the only thing I hand in my hand was my camera and my flash,” Abbasi said. “I started running towards the train with my arm stretched out and flashing so that the train driver would look at it.”

Abbasi’s full explanation and his perspective on what happened can be heard in the audio clip below:

Later, Abbasi appeared on the Today Show to clarify some of the confusion and answer some difficult questions. When asked if he would have done anything differently if  given the chance, he said,

“If this thing happened again with the same circumstances, whether I had a camera or not, and I was running towards it, there is no way I could have rescued Mr. Han.”

The full interview can be viewed here:

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7 responses to “Photographer Under Fire for Capturing NY Subway Tragedy”

  1. Jacques says:

    Thinking back on good Samaritan situations. There was one story that I keep of thinking every time a good Samaritan scenario comes up. It is one where a guy jumped off of a bridge into harsh rapids and saved someones life who was stuck in a car in harsh rapids due to bad weather (hurricane or something can not remember to well). What I do remember was that the person saved had gotten injured and sued the good Samaritan.

    So if I was this photographer and if I could run faster or do anything different that would have been able to save the guys life, the question of being sued for being a good Samaritan would have still bugged me and more than likely taken up any time there would have been to save the mans life. Quite frankly he can be grateful for the shot he got, and people that do not appreciate the shot should just avert their eyes. Job well done is all I can say, it may sound harsh but hey you didn’t save the guys life so stop complaining

  2. Guido says:

    Well, it’s easy thinking what one there should do, or not…
    Who here never thought about this situation while waiting too close to the line for the next train?
    So i ask, beeing pushed to the railway is like death sentence?
    If I was there, what should I do to get out alive? no where to run to no where to hide?

  3. sillery books says:

    WHERE were all the passengers waiting for the train? HOW about the man who pushed him off the platform? WHY did no-one pull him out. Did no-one care? Would anone have cared in New York if this photograph had never been taken. It appears that people were more interested in lambasting the photgrapher than asking WHY NO-ONE ON THE PLATFORM TRIED TO HELP HIM OR STTEMPT TO SAVE HIS LIFE. As previosly sometimes being a samaritan backfires, which is why many people now
    are affraid to help others because of being sued, especially professionals in the medical professions.

  4. Thomas Zakowski says:

    The people that are out there trying to make this photographer out to be the bad guy are just like the 99.999999999999 percent of the people that were actually present to this event, hmm, simply put they would have done nothing, and its their inner guilt and half baked ideals that is trying to place blame on anybody but themselves for walking through life with blinders on. Ironically they have actually done studies on just how present people are to the present moment. Not very were the results.

  5. Sus says:

    As morbid it is to have the photograph taken and published, the photographer was not the only person in that subway. The question that should be asked is why the people that were closest did not attempt to help! Maybe the safety issue will now be addressed as this will not be an isolated incident.

  6. Nancy Clark says:

    The man looks so lonely in this photo…as the train approaches…why are there no people, no arms outstretched to help him?? The photograph shows an empty platform…where were all the other people?? if given help…he might have gotten free and lived. Instead of going after the photographer…I hope everyone present at his horrible death has a guilty conscience and sleeps badly forever. Because he must have been aware of his oncoming death and that no one was there to pull him free. How can anyone live with that??

  7. Electric Crimson says:

    101% of people questioned in a poll???????
    80+4+17=101.

    As to the photographer – his facial reactions seem as in a honest person. I don’t think he’s a liar. He really believes he couldn’t do anything :(

    RIP Mr. Han…

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