The photographer who took a picture slapped on the front page of the New York Post of a man about to be fatally struck by a subway train dismissed his ‘armchair critics’ on Wednesday, as public outrage grew.
An uproar erupted over Tuesday’s picture, plastered on the front page of the tabloid under the giant headline Doomed, as people across the United States questioned the morality of taking a picture of the helpless victim, rather than rushing to help save his life.
But photographer R Umar Abassi said he was several hundred feet away when he saw Ki Suk Han hurled onto the train tracks late Monday — too far to help him escape the path of the oncoming train.
“My condolences to the family, and if I could have, I would have pulled Han out,” said on a show. The photograph showed Han struggling to clamber back onto the subway platform at Times Square as a train bore down on him on Monday afternoon.
Abbasi said he saw Han flung onto the tracks out of his peripheral vision while standing on the platform about 40m away. He estimated that about 20 to 22 seconds elapsed between this moment and when Han was fatally struck, during which time he started running toward the struggling man and snapping the photographs with his professional digital SLR camera.
He said he was trying to warn the driver of the oncoming train with the flash from his camera. “If this thing happened again with the same circumstances, whether I had a camera or not and I was running towards it, there was no way I could’ve rescued Han,” Abbasi said.
“If I was in a reachable distance, I would’ve grabbed him and tried to pull him.” Abbasi said the photographs were very dark and were lightened by the Post before publication.
He also confirmed he was paid for the photograph. “I would call it licensing to use it,” Abbasi added. “Selling a photograph of this nature sounds morbid. I licensed these photographs. [How the image was used] is not my decision.”
He added that those who condemn his actions are simply being unfair. “I can’t let the armchair critics bother me. They were not there. They have no idea how very quickly it happened,” he said.
Abbasi added that he had been returning to the Post anyway with his camera after an assignment earlier that day. Police have since arrested former deli worker Naeem Davis and charged him with second-degree murder. Davis admitted shoving Han and causing him to fall onto the subway tracks.