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The ethics of taking a picture
December 5, 2012 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday, the New York Post published a dramatic image on its cover of a Queens man just seconds from being hit by a Q train after being pushed by another man who is now in custody.

The freelance photographer who took the picture, R. Umar Abbasi, claims that he has been using the flash on his camera to warn the conductor. While plenty of New Yorkers have been debating what they would do in the same situation (no one on the platform attempted to help the fallen man, who died at the hospital), a controversy has mainly surrounded what Abbasi did, and the Post's decision to print the photo on the cover.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (179 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
The freelance photographer who took the picture, R. Umar Abbasi, claims that he has been using the flash on his camera to warn the conductor.

It was worth a try, I guess.

Plan B: Sell the "faces of death" shot to the New York Post.
posted by Egg Shen at 6:53 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The photo is bad enough; the text they put with it on the cover is atrocious.
posted by jbickers at 6:55 AM on December 5, 2012 [27 favorites]


The freelance photographer who took the picture, R. Umar Abbasi, claims that he has been using the flash on his camera to warn the conductor.

I don't know it seemed like a stressful situation, and as this FPP says, no one else tried to help either. Maybe he thought it would really alert the conductor. But to sell the picture for profit? And for the NY Post to actually publish it in such a sensational way?!?! Really ghoulish. I hope no one buys Abbasi's work for a long, long time.
posted by bluefly at 6:57 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to judge the photographer, we don't know how far away he really was, cameras have zooms.

The caption though, just so gleeful. We see tough photos all the time, and we can debate the photographers role in the situation. But that caption is perhaps the worst possible.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:58 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey conductor! Look! Look! There's a man on the tracks! Do you see him? No? Then let me explode this blinding light in your face, that should help.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:58 AM on December 5, 2012 [49 favorites]


I support the photog, and hell the Post.
posted by grobstein at 6:59 AM on December 5, 2012


Well it's not as bad as the chap here in Sweden who jumped down on the rails to pick the pocket of another man who drunkenly fell onto the subway tracks. C'mon New York. Is this the best you can do?
posted by three blind mice at 7:01 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


      Journalism in America
                       DOOMED
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 7:02 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


No comment on the ethics of the pic or the Post, but this is useful information about what to do if you fall on the tracks.
posted by dfriedman at 7:02 AM on December 5, 2012 [32 favorites]


If you actually think this guy was taking pictures to "alert the conductor," I have a bridge to sell you.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:02 AM on December 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


Journalism in America
DOOMED


Did you mean to post this comment in another thread? This one is about the New York Post.
posted by griphus at 7:03 AM on December 5, 2012 [29 favorites]


It seems like there's a good chance that the photographer acted inappropriate, but I think the real focus should be on the Post's decision to print it and run it with that captioned.

That is disgusting and unacceptable and there's really no defense for it beyond "we like selling papers."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:03 AM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah---judging what the photog did is tough (maybe he was trying to warn the conductor? Maybe he didn't even try to help? Maybe he was just in shock at the event and didn't think clearly?). But the Post's actions are just unforgivable... Except that it's an incredibly dramatic picture that people want to see. Does that make it worth putting a man about to be killed on your front page? Depends on where you place the moral weight of "Displaying tragedy" and "Showing people what they want to see." Is this more unforgivable than a picture of a grieving family?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:08 AM on December 5, 2012


Yeah, dude on the platform maybe made the wrong snap decision.

The NY Post had plenty of time to think this through.
posted by notyou at 7:08 AM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


We've given photographers a pass in situations like this before, which I've disagreed with. And continue to. But the Post's decision to run the photo and the way they captioned it is an entirely different matter. Unforgivable.
posted by tommasz at 7:09 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, was it the Post that ran a full-cover photo of either Uday or Qusay Hussein's dead and mutilated body back when that happened?
posted by griphus at 7:09 AM on December 5, 2012


The text reads like a Silver Age Detective Comics cover.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:09 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


But to sell the picture for profit?

The Post made the decision to run the photo without consulting him. The conductor has said he slowed down specifically because he saw the flashing. The photog took his camera's memory card to the Post, and left it with them, so they could search the FIFTY photographs he ended up with from constantly signaling the conductor for signs of the perpetrator of the crime. He was not part of the decision to publish the photo.
posted by tzikeh at 7:10 AM on December 5, 2012 [77 favorites]


Why don't they just put a bunch of ladders in, at, say, five foot intervals so that you're sure to be near one?

There aren't that many stations - what, maybe a few hundred? It can't possibly cost a significant amount of money, relative to what NYC spends every year.
posted by Flunkie at 7:11 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, here's a Post front page a mere couple weeks ago. The same photo was on the wonderful Daily News. These guys are and have always been bottom-feeders.
posted by vacapinta at 7:12 AM on December 5, 2012


The photog took his camera's memory card to the Post, and left it with them, so they could search the FIFTY photographs he ended up with from constantly signaling the conductor for signs of the perpetrator of the crime.
What? That doesn't make sense as an excuse. I'm not saying he needs an excuse, but it's apparently being used as one, and it doesn't make sense as one. You take potential evidence of a crime to the police, not to some shitty yellow journalism tabloid.
posted by Flunkie at 7:13 AM on December 5, 2012 [24 favorites]


There aren't that many stations - what, maybe a few hundred?

468
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:14 AM on December 5, 2012


C'mon New York. Is this the best you can do?

Sorry New York. I didn't see at first that he was intentionally pushed by a madman and not just knocked off the platform (which is bad enough.) Compared to that what a photographer or newspaper does would seem to be of little concern.
posted by three blind mice at 7:15 AM on December 5, 2012


I have a hard time judging the photographer for taking the photo. I don't know what I'd do in that situation -- stand there in shock? try to help? vomit? -- and taking a photo might be a fairly instinctive response for a photographer.

I have an easier time judging the photographer for selling the photo (or, taking it to the Post instead of the Police, if that's his story and he's sticking to it) which is something he did in a considered manner after the fact.

And I have absolutely no problem judging anyone at the Post who was involved in choosing to print that photo or writing that caption.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:16 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why don't they just put a bunch of ladders in, at, say, five foot intervals so that you're sure to be near one?

If you put ladders everywhere, that will almost guarantee people will be hopping down onto the tracks all the time for any reason whatsoever, and cause more accidents.
posted by griphus at 7:16 AM on December 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


Gee, It's almost like the Post knows its audience. I'm trying to think of something worse than being a regular Post reader, but I'm coming up blank.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:16 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You take potential evidence of a crime to the police, not to some shitty yellow journalism tabloid.

Read what I linked. The photographer brought the police to the Post's offices to look for the perpetrator. I didn't mean that the editors were put in charge of looking for the perpetrator.
Mr. Abbasi said he was wearing a 20-odd pound backpack of camera gear for an assignment, and was standing near the 47th Street entrance to the platform when he saw the man fall on the tracks. “Nobody helped,” he said. “People started running away.”

“I saw the lights in the distance,” signaling a subway’s approach, he said, so he started firing off flashes on the camera — 49 times in all, he said — as a means of warning the driver.

“I was not aiming to take a photograph of the man on the track,” he said, later adding that his arm was fully outstretched, the camera far from his face.

“If I had reached him in time, I would have pulled him up,” he said. At one point, the man said to have shoved Mr. Han came toward Mr. Abbasi, he said, so he backed up against a wall, still flashing his camera. He estimated the victim was on the tracks for 10 or 15 seconds before he was struck.
posted by tzikeh at 7:17 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given the amount of light in the foreground due to the flash and the rapid dissapation of the flash's light shortly after the man in the photo, it doesn't look like the photographer was that far away - but the relatively poor resolution may also suggest cropping, which is indicative of "zooming in" digitally. Either way, I'm sorry, I see this sort of thing happen, and my instinct is to run to the guy and help if my mind has more than 2 seconds to process what just happened and react - and the photographer obviously had the ability to process the situation as, well, there's that photo he took.

It is also a shame that in this technological age we don't have train control for subways that make them stop at specific, designated locations, allowing the doors to open in precise locations and thereby allowing SAFETY RAILS to be placed everywhere the doors will not open. This has been common on many similar systems such as transit trains in airports and even rollercoasters for decades. It seems a relatively easy fix to save lives, but I suppose with so many things there's supposedly no money in the budget.
posted by Muddler at 7:18 AM on December 5, 2012


Why don't they just put a bunch of ladders in, at, say, five foot intervals so that you're sure to be near one?

If they were serious about safety, they would install platform doors. Good luck finding the money and willingness to spend it this way, though.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:20 AM on December 5, 2012


Ad hominem: "I'm not going to judge the photographer, we don't know how far away he really was, cameras have zooms. "

Slate:
According to a Post video segment, Abbasi, who waiting for the subway on an unrelated assignment when Han was pushed off the platform, was not ?strong enough to physically lift the victim himself,? and so chose to use ?the only resources available to him, and began rapidly flashing his camera to signal the train conductor to stop.? This image, then, is ostensibly a dark serendipity, an accidental artifact delivered by happenstance from the ether.
So, really, it's a worse excuse than "the camera was already in my hands," but better than "I was trying to get a cover photo."

Really, if people ran away, that's the real crime. In that situation, you're supposed to help the person if you can, or run to the end of the platform and flail your arms wildly at the oncoming train.

The flashes probably reduced the train driver's vision, but I'm willing to believe that the photographer made a heat-of-the-moment decision using his best judgement.
posted by schmod at 7:20 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The DOOMED and the rest of the headline is indeed atrocious.

I do have to say, though, one NY Post headline from years back was pretty great:

HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:20 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Isn't running to help the guy the absolute wrong instinct in these cases, though? It seems like the thing to do is run away from the train, not try to get back on the platform, even with the assistance of another person. The train will stop at the platform; if you get beyond the platform, you should be fine, right?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:22 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm imagining there will be a call for a technological fix. Maybe retracting guard rails that cover the whole platform edge and retract downwards. Or maybe some sort of panic button on the platforms.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:22 AM on December 5, 2012


More from Abbasi:
Before I went into the subway, I had been up in Times Square, and my camera was still set for outside lighting. The flash was on 1/64th of a second, which would be split-second recharging.

People think I had time to set the camera and take photos, and that isn’t the case. I just ran toward that train.

The sad part is, there were people who were close to the victim, who watched and didn’t do anything. You can see it in the pictures.

The truth is I could not reach that man; if I could have, I would have.

But the train was moving faster than I could get there.
posted by tzikeh at 7:23 AM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you ever find yourself on the tracks at a subway station, run towards the end of the platform, the same direction the train would be traveling.
posted by dazed_one at 7:23 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was having some interactions with printed press, I was lucky to have a journalist advising me. The message was, proceed with extreme caution. We are not your friend. If you extend your hand to us we are likely to chop it off. That is our job.

That extended hand metaphor is prescient here.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:23 AM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you weren't there, you have no way of knowing how you would have acted in that situation. If there's a train coming, is trying to help the person up really the best plan? What if he pulls you onto the tracks instead? Then there's two dead people.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 7:24 AM on December 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'm trying to think of something worse than being a regular Post reader, but I'm coming up blank.

Bruno, who is almost blind, and has to operate wholly by touch?

posted by Capt. Renault at 7:24 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems like the thing to do is run away from the train, not try to get back on the platform, even with the assistance of another person. The train will stop at the platform; if you get beyond the platform, you should be fine, right?

Running ahead is absolutely the correct thing to do, if you are calm enough to do it. There are reports that the victim was inebriated at the time, and probably in shock. It's very hard to have good judgment in the best of circumstances, which this was not.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:25 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, really, it's a worse excuse than "the camera was already in my hands," but better than "I was trying to get a cover photo."

Right, what I meant is that from the picture he looks like he is close enough to make it over to pull the guy out. But we don't know how far he really was due to possible zoom and crop.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:25 AM on December 5, 2012


Running ahead is absolutely the correct thing to do

I thought you were supposed to lie in the well between the tracks and let the train run over you. Where is this running ahead thing coming from? Couldn't you fall that way? The wind from the coming train could knock you down even.
posted by sweetkid at 7:27 AM on December 5, 2012


Running ahead is absolutely the correct thing to do, if you are calm enough to do it. There are reports that the victim was inebriated at the time, and probably in shock. It's very hard to have good judgment in the best of circumstances, which this was not.

Of course, that was absolutely not meant as a judgment of the victim; put in that situation (especially drunk, but even sober) there's a very good chance I would die, even knowing what I should do ahead of time.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:27 AM on December 5, 2012


The NYP is a garbage-y tabloid in the business of promoting ideas that are harmful to the public for the benefit of its owner. This latest bit of awfulness comes as no surprise.
posted by hell toupee at 7:28 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought you were supposed to lie in the well between the tracks and let the train run over you

There are only a small percentage of stations where this would work.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:29 AM on December 5, 2012


No comment on the ethics of the pic or the Post, but this is useful information about what to do if you fall on the tracks.

From the comments on that article: "I live in Singapore and there is a floor to ceiling glass wall between you and the train, with doors that open when the train arrives--like the outside and inside doors of an elevator. Most Asian cities have this so falling on the tracks isn't possible. . ."
posted by IvoShandor at 7:31 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where is this running ahead thing coming from?

As the train approaches, it's slowing down -- initially just to stop at the station and then as part of an emergency stop when the conductor sees you. If you keep moving along, your chances that the train can stop in time will keep going up the further down the tracks you make it.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:33 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I haven't been down on the tracks since I was a teenager, but is there enough room in either the well directly under the yellow line or on the opposite wall for a person to flatten themselves out against?
posted by griphus at 7:36 AM on December 5, 2012


"I live in Singapore and there is a floor to ceiling glass wall between you and the train, with doors that open when the train arrives--like the outside and inside doors of an elevator. Most Asian cities have this so falling on the tracks isn't possible. . ."

If only NYC had a subway that was as clean and modern as the Hong Kong MTR...yeah, I'm betting on the 2 Av line being finished before that happens.

but is there enough room in either the well directly under the yellow line or on the opposite wall for a person to flatten themselves out against?

Some stations have nooks on the opposite walls for workers to stand in while trains pass. I once saw the workers using these and was amazed they do work on the tracks while the trains are still running.
posted by pravit at 7:41 AM on December 5, 2012


Slate points out that people finding themselves on subway tracks results in about a 50% fatality rate, which is encouraging given that many of those are attempted suicides, and many more involve drunk or similarly incapacitated victims. Only about 3% are people pushed onto the tracks.

Of course, regular Post readers will have estimated that number to be about 93%.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:41 AM on December 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Running ahead is absolutely the correct thing to do...

In cases like this it's better to have a plan in advance than to improvise on the spot. Most stations in NYC have a space under the platform. Reading here, that might not always be the case. So look for the space, then run down the track. Check.

While we're at it: When caught in a riptide, swim to shore diagonally, don't fight the current back in. I did the wrong thing once and barely survived.

I mentally rehearse getting hit by a car: Cover your head with your arms and jump onto the hood. I hope I can remember to do that if it ever comes up.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:41 AM on December 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


While running past the end of the platform is the best universal advice if you don't know the details of a given train system, note that if you fall onto the tracks of the DC Metro, there is a space under the platform edge large enough to safely wait for a train to pass. Picture was taken from the second page of this safety pamphlet.
posted by Partial Law at 7:41 AM on December 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


Given the lack of barriers between the crowds and the tracks, and how packed the midtown stations get during the week, *and* the not-infrequent construction barriers that further shrink the area available on the platform, I'm surprised something like this doesn't happen daily.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:42 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't even want to contemplate the logistics here but. He looks like he is about halfway down the platform. The train would still be going pretty fast. I think it would be almost impossible to run forward with any speed without tripping. there is a lot of stuff down there, ties, baskets to catch garbage. Etc.

I think he could have crossed over the third rail and stood between the two sets of tracks. Even in stations with walls and no other set of tracks there are cutouts you could stand in. I am sure I have seen track workers stand in them.

Some stations have space under the platform, it is never much but probably enough.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:43 AM on December 5, 2012


Yes, we definitely need more barriers. There's barely a place to walk in some stations without being well within the yellow caution area, and people are rushing, and people are wearing heels...
posted by sweetkid at 7:43 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


no one on the platform attempted to help the fallen man, who died at the hospital

From the first link:

Dr. Laura Kaplan, a second-year resident at Beth Israel Medical Center who was also on the platform, sprang into action, taking off her coat, grabbing her stethoscope and rushing over to try an administer CPR with the help of a nearby security guard.

“It was terrifying, but you run on adrenaline,” Kaplan told The Post. “There was no pulse, never, no reflexes.”

“I heard what I thought were heart sounds,” she added. “We started compressions, which is half of CPR. We were unable to perform rescue breathing [the other half of CPR] because there was blood coming out of his mouth. He wasn’t in the right position [for full CPR] and there was just no way to get him out of there.

“It was apparent there was not much I could do -- but you can’t not do something, you have to try.”

Kaplan said she had been sitting on a bench waiting for the train and heard people arguing but did not see Han thrown onto the tracks.

“I looked up and briefly saw the man standing up vertical along the tracks, and that’s when the train hit him,” she said.

“He flipped, vertically, a number of times. People were shouting and yelling when it happened, but then people ran the other way," she said. [Emphasis mine.]
posted by feral_goldfish at 7:45 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


From the comments on that article: "I live in Singapore and there is a floor to ceiling glass wall between you and the train

I was just going to comment on this. Platform screen doors. They're not just in Singapore.

Old-style subway platforms are weirdly dangerous compared to most other things in daily life. Streets are dangerous, bus stops are dangerous, crosswalks are dangerous, but we would never accept a street design in which the cars roared past the sidewalks in little canyons that you could easily fall into and not climb back out of. I'm surprised all subways haven't been fitted with platform screen doors.
posted by pracowity at 7:47 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some of the most important photos in history have been of people split seconds away from death.
posted by Dasein at 7:47 AM on December 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


A few years ago, an inebriated person fell onto the tracks at Boston's North Station just as an Orange Line train was coming. Everyone on the platform started waving their arms over the tracks , and fortunately the train stopped just in time (warning: everything works out okay, but it's still traumatic to watch)

I don't know what I would have done in this situation, especially if I wasn't strong enough to lift someone out of the pit. I do know that I wouldn't sell a photo like that to the New York Post.

A couple months ago I walked into Downtown Crossing and witnessed a man calmly walking a person who had fallen onto the tracks to the end of the platform. Even though it was clear that the MBTA had already been notified (my first reaction was to confirm this--someone in the crowd pointed to the transit cop and inspector overseeing the rescue operation) my heart was still pounding until they were both out of harms way, expecting a train to appear at any moment (one didn't. and even when the next train arrived minutes later, it crawled into the station just to be safe).
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:51 AM on December 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


They're not just in Singapore.
Paris, too.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:51 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm imagining there will be a call for a technological fix. Maybe retracting guard rails that cover the whole platform edge and retract downwards. Or maybe some sort of panic button on the platforms.

I was also thinking panic button. When activated, police call boxes on the platform should automatically notify trains in the area to approach with extreme caution.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:56 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was just going to comment on this. Platform screen doors. They're not just in Singapore.

Also notice how all the subway stations in the linked Wikipedia article are about 1000x times cleaner than the average NYC subway station. Out of all the subway systems I've ever used, NYC's has to be the dirtiest and most technologically backwards, and it doesn't even have the heaviest ridership (that distinction going to Tokyo, Seoul, and Moscow) nor is it the oldest (London). I have no idea how funding for the subway system works in NYC, but my feeling is they either don't have very much money, or they spend it poorly, or both.
posted by pravit at 7:58 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


An approach speed limit is another idea. There's no real reason for any train to cross the first half or three quarters of the platform at full throttle. Especially for MTA trains which only have a casual relationship with schedules.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:58 AM on December 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have no idea how funding for the subway system works in NYC, but my feeling is they either don't have very much money, or they spend it poorly, or both.

Both! You can read up on MTA funding here. The funds are both mismanaged and going more toward making sure the stations don't fall apart than improvements. I'm not sure how a massive infrastructure overhaul would even work. They did an $88 million reconstruction of a station next to my house and it took three years. The station was shut down every other weekend, and regularly on weekdays between 10 AM and 3 PM. I live in the middle of nowhere. How they'd do that with Grand Central or 42nd Street is beyond me.
posted by griphus at 8:07 AM on December 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also notice how all the subway stations in the linked Wikipedia article are about 1000x times cleaner than the average NYC subway station

You don't even know the half of it. I actually stepped on a rat the other day. They don't even bother to scurry away anymore.

I think part of it is we like them filthy and half falling apart because it makes us feel hardcore as fuck.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:09 AM on December 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Plus, they were 100 times worse just 20 years ago.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:11 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think part of it is we like them filthy and half falling apart because it makes us feel hardcore as fuck.

I don't. I never understood that.
posted by sweetkid at 8:11 AM on December 5, 2012


It doesn't matter if the photographer couldn't reach him, its the principle that matters. Its horrible to think that since you can't reach him, might as well take a picture of him before the event happens. Very sad...
posted by mitrieD at 8:12 AM on December 5, 2012


Funny dig on the Post in dfriedman's gawker link: "Thousands of people who happened to see the New York Post's Tuesday-morning cover..."

As for safety improvements, I agree that they would be useful, but it is far from a simple logistical matter. As someone mentioned upthread there are 468 stations, which I believe makes it the largest subway system in the world. Ladders wouldn't work since there is (deliberate) minimal clearance between the train and the platform so people don't slip through/catch ankles. Platform doors would only work at some stations because there are different length trains that stop there (although I suppose there could be a workaround there).
None of this is meant to suggest their funds aren't mismanaged, but I don't think it is quite so simple.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 8:12 AM on December 5, 2012


I don't. I never understood that.

I wouldn't go so far as to say we made a conscious decision to leave them shitty just so we could all feel like we are in The Warriors. People sure do complain when they try to raise the fare though.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:14 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Thousands of people who happened to see the New York Post's Tuesday-morning cover..."

555,000 according to this, making it the 8th-largest paper in the U.S. by circulation, ahead of the Chicago Tribune.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 8:16 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right, ultraviolet catastrophe, exactly my point.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 8:19 AM on December 5, 2012


According to the MTA, trains hit subway commuters 147 times in 2011, with 50 deaths. Annual ridership in 2011 was 1.6 billion.
posted by Guy Smiley at 8:26 AM on December 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


One problem with the advice to run in the opposite direction of the train is that if you can't see the train coming and you're unfamiliar with the station, it can be hard to know which direction the train is coming from. I know I've been surprised before when I thought the train was going to come one way and it ended up coming the other way (this is also why it's a bad idea to lean over the tracks to see if the train is coming. You might get clocked by a train coming the other way). I'm pretty sure that there are signal lights pointed in the direction of where the trains are coming from, so maybe if you can see one of those you should run toward it.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 8:28 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't fault anyone for not assisting the victim. The first thing you're taught in first aid training is to not become a victim yourself. There's a fast moving train and a violent perpetrator and a lot of confusion, and the photographer is setting off dozens of flashes. (I find flashes very disorienting, so I guess I'm biased.) I can't imagine I'd have been able to do anything in that situation except wave at the train--which people did.

The conductor has said he slowed down specifically because he saw the flashing.

I see that Abbassi said this, but I don't see a quote from the conductor or from an MTA spokesperson. I don't really want to belabor this because, as I said above, I don't fault him for not pulling the guy out. If he was really firing his flash to warn the conductor, then he was doing something. In my imaginary action movie version of this, in which I star as the photographer, I wouldn't have pointed my flash at the train. I'd have lit up the tracks or the ceiling or myself, waving. But Abbassi's not helping himself with his protests that other people weren't helping, either.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:30 AM on December 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Post made the decision to run the photo without consulting him. The conductor has said he slowed down specifically because he saw the flashing. The photog took his camera's memory card to the Post, and left it with them, so they could search the FIFTY photographs he ended up with from constantly signaling the conductor for signs of the perpetrator of the crime. He was not part of the decision to publish the photo.

Interesting. I don't fault Abbasi for not helping the man on the tracks or taking the pics. I interpreted "freelance" as meaning he takes pictures and the shops them around to get them published. But, I stand corrected. The Post, however, which ran the photo 2 days in a row sucks balls.
posted by bluefly at 8:31 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Old-style subway platforms are weirdly dangerous compared to most other things in daily life. Streets are dangerous, bus stops are dangerous, crosswalks are dangerous, but we would never accept a street design in which the cars roared past the sidewalks in little canyons that you could easily fall into and not climb back out of. I'm surprised all subways haven't been fitted with platform screen doors.

Are you joking? This is a horrifying case but 30,000+ people die on the roads in the US each year with another 300,000+ seriously injured. This happens even with extensive laws and cultural indoctrination about road dangers that result in things like parents not letting their children outside. We tolerate a system where anyone no matter how incompetent, dumb or malicious can drive a vehicle that is unrestricted in its movements other than perhaps by a curb in most cities. The only things that get any real protection are federal buildings

Even antiquated subways are incredibly safe compared to roads.
posted by srboisvert at 8:32 AM on December 5, 2012 [21 favorites]


I've seen quotes that Abbassi said he couldn't get to the victim in time, and another quote where he said the perpetrator made a move to Abbassi so Abbassi backed up against a wall in order to not be pushed.

All I know is it must have been a difficult situation for anyone there, with a psychotic who also might push YOU onto the tracks if you helped.
posted by surplus at 8:33 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


According to the MTA, trains hit subway commuters 147 times in 2011, with 50 deaths. Annual ridership in 2011 was 1.6 billion.

This seems to compare favorably with air travel. [Though getting hit by a train is not the only thing that can kill you in a New York subway.]
posted by Egg Shen at 8:35 AM on December 5, 2012


I can't fault anyone for not assisting the victim. The first thing you're taught in first aid training is to not become a victim yourself. There's a fast moving train and a violent perpetrator and a lot of confusion, and the photographer is setting off dozens of flashes. (I find flashes very disorienting, so I guess I'm biased.) I can't imagine I'd have been able to do anything in that situation except wave at the train--which people did.

Certainly if the train is bearing down on him, I wouldn't advise anyone to start reaching over the tracks to pull him out. There's just too much chance of that resulting in two deaths instead of one.

I also can't really fault anyone for how they would react in a situation like this; it's just too difficult.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:35 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some of the most important photos in history have been of people split seconds away from death.

I came in to make this point. I have to say that I don't really understand the moral line people are drawing here. Why is publishing this photo disgusting and yet publishing the photo of Nguyễn Văn Lém having his brains blown out is perfectly fine? Is it only disgusting to publish photos of people who are dying or about to die if it is happening in America?
posted by yoink at 8:36 AM on December 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I should add that I fully understand what is objectionable in the ghoulish headline that the Post wrote--but I can't see what the objection either to taking the picture or to publishing the picture is. We've had a bunch of threads on Metafilter over the years celebrating photographs of dying people or photographers who are most famous for their photographs of dead, dying or about to die people. The objection to this one seems to be based on nothing more than a vague feeling that "hey, this could thave been someone I know personally!"
posted by yoink at 8:39 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Though getting hit by a train is not the only thing that can kill you in a New York subway.]

Outside of falling debris and picking a fight, I'm struggling to think of any.
posted by griphus at 8:41 AM on December 5, 2012


Why is publishing this photo disgusting and yet publishing the photo of Nguyễn Văn Lém having his brains blown out is perfectly fine? Is it only disgusting to publish photos of people who are dying or about to die if it is happening in America?

Because that photo wasn't published with the really immature headline of "DOOMED; this man is about to die." I think the subway photo could be published in a sensitive way that tells the whole story, but the Post went for the most sensational.
posted by bluefly at 8:41 AM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


You don't see the difference between a photo that tells an important story about an important political issue and involves a person about to die with a shock photo of a man about to die where the only point is that he's about to die?"The difference is the intent with which you publish a picture, not the nationality of the person about to die.

The photo of Nguyễn Văn Lém tells part of the story of the Vietnam War and was important to the anti-war movement. If the New York Post published this as a way of calling attention to subway safety issues then we'd be having a different conversation.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:43 AM on December 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


But the Post's actions are just unforgivable...

Of course, but then, it's The NY Post. This paper has been a piece of shit since before I was born. Since I expect The Post to be sleazy, I can't muster up any outrage at it so much as gesture and say sarcastically "Ladies and gentlemen, The New York Post!"
posted by Edgewise at 8:44 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would somebody who's already seen the Post mind posting the headline and caption? For once, I'd really rather not read the links.

I wonder if remote controlled subways are safer than ones with a conductor in cases like this. Vancouver's Skytrain has no conductors, only remote operators who presumably have a great view of each station well before the train arrives.

Because there's no conductor, the Skytrain is set up so that each train has a single seat with a window facing forward, and another facing backward at the rear of the train. It's like flying through the Death Star trench.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:46 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Outside of falling debris and picking a fight, I'm struggling to think of any.

Rat Kings, Mole People, Aligators, CHUDS and The Baseball Furies.

Most of my problem is the headline, even just "Doomed" would have been better, at least it isn't "Watch this man die before your very eyes" as it stands now.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:46 AM on December 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Ladies and gentlemen, The New York Post!"

Yeah I think if the New York Post had a NYT-style "All The News That's Fit to Print" motto appearing in the cover corner of every issue, it would just say "Go Fuck Yourself."
posted by griphus at 8:47 AM on December 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Rat Kings, Mole People, Aligators, CHUDS and The Baseball Furies.

Do the Mutant Ninja Turtles work the New York subway system? Because that would even things out.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:48 AM on December 5, 2012


Because that photo wasn't published with the really immature headline of "DOOMED; this man is about to die."

You perhaps missed my follow up comment. I have no argument about the crappy headline. But the title of this post is not "The ethics of headline writing"--it's "the ethics of taking a picture." And many of the comments are lambasting the photographer for A) taking the picture at all and B) selling the picture for publication.

If the New York Post published this as a way of calling attention to subway safety issues then we'd be having a different conversation.

The same comment applies. If we want to have a conversation about the shittiness of the Post's framing of this story, then fine. But that isn't how this thread was framed and it isn't the tenor of the comments to which I'm responding. What I don't understand is the ire directed at the photographer for taking and selling this photo. That seems to me weirdly misplaced.
posted by yoink at 8:49 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


In 1987, I was a freshman at Stuyvesant. This was back when the school was located at 15th and 1st, not in Battery Park. About a month and a half after I started there, while standing on the platform in Union Square waiting for the L to take me over to school on 1st Ave, a guy came up behind another Stuy student I knew in passing named Georgia and shoved her onto the tracks with both hands.

I don't remember why I was going to school late. It was mid-morning, and the full rush was over. But the platform was still pretty crowded with students and commuters. I was standing a bit to the right when it happened. The L train was approaching the station. She was on the ground then trying to climb to her feet and screaming in a really panicked voice and waving her arms.

Within a second, you could hear a pin drop. Everyone shut up. Some kids yelled for help. Many of us froze in place. I froze. Even though I lived in Queens, I hadn't traveled by subway much, and hadn't been commuting to school all that long. I wasn't sure what to do. I knew that there was room against the platform to hide while a train went by. Or in some stations, there were cut outs -- these little nooks in the wall, where an MTA worker could press against the wall and not be hit by the train. The train was coming.

While I was trying to figure out what to do, a guy jumped forward and stuck his hand out to her, but he couldn't reach her that way. There was no way he would have the leverage. He lay on his stomach and literally pulled her to safety by her hair, coat and then by her backpack.

All of this took perhaps 10-20 seconds. It felt like a lot less at the time.

That platform was filled with stunned people. She was saved because one guy didn't panic, and thought quickly enough to act and do the right thing. Just one man, out of all those people.

I think, removed from the actual event, we all would like to believe we'd do what he did. That we would rush in and save the person on the tracks without hesitation. It's easy to condemn the folks who froze, or stepped back, or let someone else do the heroic thing. I wish I had done something myself back then.

But reading about it from afar and actually being there, knowing what to do and then doing it successfully are very different things.
posted by zarq at 8:49 AM on December 5, 2012 [107 favorites]


My question in all this is how you manage to design a subway system that proves a deathtrap in the entirely foreseeable event of someone falling off the platform?
posted by oxidizer at 8:49 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Outside of falling debris and picking a fight, I'm struggling to think of any.

For example.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:52 AM on December 5, 2012


This is the headline:

Pushed on the
subway track,
this man is
about to die


DOOMED
posted by Ad hominem at 8:52 AM on December 5, 2012


The TTC investigated platform doors a few years ago. The cost estimate was $6-10 million per station, so it would have cost about half to three quarters of a billion to install them system-wide.

I think they'd probably be a good investment at a few of our busiest stations, where the platforms can get downright scary crowded at rush hour. But otherwise, I think there are better ways to spend that kind of money.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:53 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The video of the confrontation (at the end of this story) that led to the push shows how narrow the platform is at that station. It's unclear where the perpetrator was after the push, but if he was still around I wouldn't want to have to run past him to get to the guy on the tracks, no matter how good a Samaritan I might be. First rule of subway ridership--steer clear of the crazies.
posted by stargell at 8:53 AM on December 5, 2012


photographs of dead, dying or about to die people.

If it makes you happy I think a lot of those photographs are reprehensible and some of them make me want to vomit. In fact, just thinking about some of them is getting me very upset right now.
posted by bq at 8:55 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a video on YouTube that shows what happens to someone who gets caught between train and platform in a situation like this. I recommend you don't watch it.
posted by Decani at 8:55 AM on December 5, 2012


Found through Google: New York Times and AP on that 1987 incident. (I think I got most of the details right. AP says she was actually on her knees when he lifted her off the tracks.)
posted by zarq at 8:56 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


My question in all this is how you manage to design a subway system that proves a deathtrap in the entirely foreseeable event of someone falling off the platform?

The same way you design a car without seatbelts: until someone makes you, why bother spending the extra money?
posted by griphus at 8:56 AM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


You know the way we have lifebelts at the edge of lakes and swimming pools? How about a "Break glass for emergency ladder" box in every subway station?
posted by knapah at 9:00 AM on December 5, 2012


It's also worth noting that in order to have platform screen doors, you also need to have a level of train control that allows them to stop with their doors precisely lined up with the screen. For older systems, this is a significant investment in itself.

And actually the cost estimate I posted was low. The actual estimates from the TTC's recommendation in 2011 was $492m for the Yonge-University-Spadina line and $510m for Bloor-Danforth, with installation completed in 2026.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:03 AM on December 5, 2012


Growing up in close proximity to DC, we regularly went on field trips into the city using Metro, which was straight out of the world of the future compared to the grim troughs of NYC's system. It was fun to ride on those trains, but I was always concerned about the imp of the perverse, and would stand well back from the elegant row of blinking lights that indicated a train was arriving out of a fear that something would snap in my head and cause me to leap in front of the train.

I got over that fear, more or less, and only time I really think about it anymore is when I'm introduced to, say, Madeline Albright, and I momentarily think that, rather than shaking her hand, I might inexplicably cup one of her breasts for no reason except a sudden appearance of the aforementioned imp (For the record, in that very situation, I just shook her hand normally.).

Still, I used to pay close attention to the structure of the Metro stations, and plan out what I'd do if I either randomly jumped onto the tracks, was pushed by some deranged passerby, or happened upon a banana peel from a cartoon. With Metro, there's a little hollow, so you should always have somewhere to go. Visiting NYC, I always map out exits, too, thinking I'd run to the middle, to that narrow verge between tracks. You always have to look for an out, my father used to tell me, in any situation. Be prepared.

Still, in 1987, near the end of a stretch of snow that had shut down most of the area, I was an impoverished wage slave who couldn't afford to miss a day, so I'd wrap up and trek several miles from my apartment in Bladensburg to the Metro station at Cheverly, walking right down the middle of the street. My shoes would get caked up with snow and I'd stomp 'em off, but it didn't help much. Cheverly Metro is a suburban station set down in a hollow, and you could see quite a distance up the tracks, and I could see the lights of my train way off, so I broke into a run. DC Metro doesn't run nearly as many trains as NYC, and after the Veteran's Day snowstorm, was running even fewer, so I felt like I had to catch the train or I'd be stuck for another hour.

Raced in, ran my card through, scrambled down the escalator, hit the platform and—

skated.

In fact, I skated straight across the already wet platform, covering quite a distance on one ice-caked foot in the manner of Gumby in a hurry, hit that elegant granite edging with the architecturally significant blinking lights, and sailed into the void.

The visual effect of how that station is set up is that you can see an oncoming train for a really, really long time before it arrives. I'd seen it from far off, and it was still far off, and I'd somehow managed to land without either breaking anything or jamming a wet mitten into the third rail, and I had years of careful obsessive planning for just such an emergency. There was the large hollow area under the platform, the train was far away, and I could have easily stepped across to the verge between tracks, where there's enough space to lie flat and be secure.

Instead, I scrabbled at the perfectly smooth platform edge in a wild panic, turning to see the train roaring towards me at hundreds of miles an hour. I was encrusted with ice, the platform was smooth, and it's just high enough that I couldn't get a leg up no matter how hard I tried, and I could not think of anything at all but GET BACK ON THE PLATFORM GET BACK ON THE PLATFORM GET BACK ON THE PLATFORM.

A man strode across, grabbed my hand, and lifted me up in one movement. The train had stopped five hundred feet away and had been standing there, motionless, almost the whole time. I thanked the man in a sort of numb haze, waited for the train with everyone else, and rode to work. I was only one of two people who made it in that day at the little microfilm company where I was working, which was good, because around lunchtime I had an unexpected crying jag.

I like to think that, twenty-five years later, I would have more composure in such a moment, but I thought I had it then, too. Always look for an out, and try not to panic.

Easier said than done, sometimes.
posted by sonascope at 9:03 AM on December 5, 2012 [119 favorites]


In the Montreal metro, each station has an emergency kill-switch that anyone can throw which (i think) cuts power to the track. they also fitted most, if not all stations with emergency call buttons.

i would have thought that such things would be standard in any subway station, and if not, be a relatively inexpensive install.
posted by bitteroldman at 9:05 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nothing surprising from the NY Post. As for the cries of "Where were the heroes?!"... well, there are plenty of heroes in this town. And that platform didn't look exactly bustling. There have been plenty of heroes in subway situations where someone jumps from the platform to help someone, or at least try to pull them up from the platform. If the platform were more crowded, I believe the collective mind would've determined to pull the man to safety. Instead there was one man with a camera, acting on some sort of instinct to DOCUMENT instead of dropping the thing on the floor and running to help the man. No way should they install suicide doors.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:12 AM on December 5, 2012


What I really can't stand is when Mayor LaGuardia passed that law that required every resident of New York City, together with anyone else working there, to buy the NY Post every day. I mean, really. That's such an outrage.

I'm sorry the Post is a nasty filthy rag that offends your better sensibilities. Get the fuck over it.

Oh, I'm sorry. I misunderstood. You love The Post. It's such a lovely object of hate.
posted by Goofyy at 9:13 AM on December 5, 2012


The same comment applies. If we want to have a conversation about the shittiness of the Post's framing of this story, then fine. But that isn't how this thread was framed and it isn't the tenor of the comments to which I'm responding. What I don't understand is the ire directed at the photographer for taking and selling this photo. That seems to me weirdly misplaced.

I'd agree that there's no reason to direct ire at the photographer (I also see very little of that here), but I think the distinction is not about Americans versus non-Americans. There are plenty of photos of Americans who are about to dying or dead that are famous and important: the picture of the person falling out of the World Trade Center, the picture of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot, the photo of the student at Kent State.

There are a few factors that I think influence how people see a photo like this:
1) Was the death itself noteworthy?
2) Was the photographer in a position to help the person dying?
3) What is accomplished by publishing the photo?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:15 AM on December 5, 2012


Mayor LaGuardia passed that law that required every resident of New York City, together with anyone else working there, to buy the NY Post every day.

That was Mayor Koch, dude. Get your history straight. LaGuardia passed the law that made everyone greet each other with a short upward head tilt instead of a handshake.
posted by griphus at 9:17 AM on December 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


Rupert Murdoch reconfirms his status as one of the Worst Humans Alive in 2012. Congratulations, Rupert.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:19 AM on December 5, 2012


Mayor Dinkins would have passed a law mandating nametags, but he was defeated in his re-election bid.
posted by Egg Shen at 9:19 AM on December 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


What I really can't stand is when Mayor LaGuardia passed that law that required every resident of New York City, together with anyone else working there, to buy the NY Post every day. I mean, really. That's such an outrage.

I'm sorry the Post is a nasty filthy rag that offends your better sensibilities. Get the fuck over it.

Oh, I'm sorry. I misunderstood. You love The Post. It's such a lovely object of hate.


What a classy comment. You're so right, unless things are required by law, there is no sense in discussing them.

Were you in New York yesterday? Everyone saw this picture on the subway newsstands. It was inescapable and horrific.

But hey you know, it's just that we really hate the Post.
posted by sweetkid at 9:19 AM on December 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


The photog took his camera's memory card to the Post, and left it with them, so they could search the FIFTY photographs he ended up with from constantly signaling the conductor for signs of the perpetrator of the crime.

I'm still confused by this part. Why did the photographer take the memory card to the Post to get assistance with searching the photos for the perp? Why not take the photos directly to the police? Is this something the police cannot handle on their own and they have to rely on a shitty newspaper to help out with identifying a perpetrator?
posted by joan_holloway at 9:26 AM on December 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


If the platform were more crowded, I believe the collective mind would've determined to pull the man to safety

That belief is unfortunately not correct. There is often an inverse relationship between help and the number of people present. A person will be less likely to receive help if there are more people present.

Bystander effect
posted by 7life at 9:28 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Were you in New York yesterday? Everyone saw this picture on the subway newsstands. It was inescapable and horrific.

And it was all over the local news. And then the national news. The photographer was interviewed on the Today Show this morning.
posted by zarq at 9:34 AM on December 5, 2012


Somewhat indicative of the times I first saw a picture of the cover on Instagram via Matt's post yesterday despite having walked past a newsstand several times.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:39 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gore and horror sell indeed, but perhaps the psychological blow could be softened a bit with some Page Three bewbage like the English get to have in their newspapers.
posted by Renoroc at 9:45 AM on December 5, 2012


Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from G. K. Chesterton:
"It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that the moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, ‘Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,’ or ‘Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet.’ They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complete picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; the can only represent what is unusual. However democratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority."
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:52 AM on December 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, ‘Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,’ or ‘Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet.’ They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complete picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; the can only represent what is unusual. However democratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority."

Yes, but there are exceptions which are good, too. TV news shows announce the birthdays of centenarians. Many charities do fantastic work. People perform random acts of kindness every day, and sometimes that makes the news. There are actually a few websites that aggregate those stories.
posted by zarq at 9:59 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't they have mushroom buttons at the end of the platforms to cut third rail power?

Not that most riders would know about such things.
posted by SillyShepherd at 10:02 AM on December 5, 2012


I find it odd that no-one has published how much time elapsed between when he was pushed on the tracks and when he was hit. This seems to be a key issue, and surely it could be determined from the surveillance video. If it was only a few seconds then I can understand why nobody could help him, but if he was down there for 15 or 20....
I don't really blame the photographer here though. I think that job imposes a kind of detachment from the world, a passivity, that you are invisible and just observe. In thousands of situations for this man I'm sure this enabled him to do his job effectively. This time though he needed to snap out of that mode but didn't, but then neither did any of the other bystanders who were just as passive. He doesn't deserve any more blame, if blame is being apportioned, than anybody else who was there.
posted by Flashman at 10:02 AM on December 5, 2012


Sticherbeast, that sounds a lot like the passage in Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday where Syme talks about how poetic the subway timetable is. I've always liked that bit.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:04 AM on December 5, 2012


It's worth looking at the larger photo, not just the NY Post cover or the stupid "DOOMED" image macro that's a tight crop. That full image is a hell of a good photograph and I don't believe for a second Abbasi got lucky with it while he was frantically flashing his camera at arm's length.

The horribly beautiful thing about that photo is how empty the platform is, displayed artistically with vanishing perspective. A good 30' to 40' of empty platform, not a single person there except the victim struggling to pull himself out. Only there in the dark distance, at the other end of that platform, is a crowd of 20+ people. As far away from the man about to die as they can be.

I don't know what I'd do on that platform in that moment. The pusher was apparently visibly deranged and some reports suggest the victim may have been belligerent and drunk himself. I suspect I'd think first of my safety and wouldn't risk going down and trying to haul the poor man out of his impending death. I'm not much of a hero. But I know this; if it were me on the tracks, I'd sure hope someone in that group of 20+ people would be that hero.
posted by Nelson at 10:15 AM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's worth looking at the larger photo, not just the NY Post cover or the stupid "DOOMED" image macro that's a tight crop. That full image is a hell of a good photograph and I don't believe for a second Abbasi got lucky with it while he was frantically flashing his camera at arm's length.

This is a far point. I think part of the reason I find the Post cover so inappropriate is that it's not even a good picture; the original is.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:19 AM on December 5, 2012


TODAY show interview with R. Umar Abbasi from this morning (w/ video).
posted by ericb at 10:23 AM on December 5, 2012


Regardless of our differing opinions about the motives of Mr. Abbasi or the trashiness of the NY Post, can we all at least agree that Matt Lauer is a monster?
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:28 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just to provide some kind of summary on the whole "platform doors" thing, it's always worth remembering that, when it comes to Metro systems, it's generally pretty easy (and cost effective) to do stuff as long as its done or planned for when the system is built. After that though you're pretty screwed.

To have platform edge doors (PEDs) you need a metro line that:

1) Is designed to handle them from an airflow perspective. Granted less of a problem in New York on the cut and cover lines, more of an issue anywhere built tube style - e.g. a bunch of the London Underground lines.

2) Has standardised train lengths and (generally speaking) unmixed rolling stock - because if your doors are going to be in different places depending on whether it's a train of type A or type B that's running that service then you're screwed.

3) Has relatively straight platforms (else you get issues with PED design and train platform overhang)

4) Has a signalling system and driver method good enough to stop trains within centremetre alignments every single time. That generally means you need some kind of Automatic Train Control.

All the above is, obviously, par for the course on your average custom designed newish metro - which is why you'll find them on most Asian lines, on the Jubilee Line extension in London (Crossrail will have them too) and on various parts of the Paris Metro etc. etc.

Retrofitting old lines to have them, however, is just generally prohibitively costly, as it's rare you'll find a pre-late-twentieth-century built system that meets all four of the points above already, and thus you have to factor in the cost of fulfilling all those points before you can even start.

So if anyone is thinking "Christ that seems high!" about sevenyearlurk's figures above, then don't - they're not inflated to my mind.

Basically PEDs may seem like a simple idea and a simple fix - but as always, the devil is in the details.
posted by garius at 10:29 AM on December 5, 2012 [26 favorites]


In his debut novel Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney describes the protagonist's reading the New York Post as the "most shameful" of his "several addictions" (which also include cocaine, alcohol and nightclubs).
posted by Gelatin at 10:58 AM on December 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was on the subway in New York once when it hit and killed a guy. He had been standing too close to the edge of the platform. The creepiest thing was that, when we finally got off the train, his shoes were still on the platform, along with his sack of mouthwash and soap he had just bought at CVS.

Not excusing their behavior here, but it's so easy in New York to get numb to stuff like this and forget where the line is. When I was on that train and word was getting around that the doors weren't opening because we'd hit someone, the dominant reaction among passengers was, "omg! I have places to be!"
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:00 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


In 1999 I was living in Munich with my husband and son. I had gone into the city for something, I forget what now, and was returning home via the U-Bahn (then underground train). I was switching trains, running down the stairs because I had heard the train I needed coming into the station, when I saw a man fall over the edge of the platform. I don't know if he was pushed or if he fell. The train hit him and I saw the whole thing.

To this day I do not remember how I got home. I must have gone back upstairs and caught another train at another station, or maybe I took the tram from that point. I think I went on autopilot and just coped until I got back to our flat and burst into tears. I didn't take the U-Bahn for weeks afterward.

The lesson I took from what happened (along with the fact that I seem to compartmentalize more than I think I do) is to stay against the wall in a subway station. I've taught my children that, too. Wait against the wall until the train comes in, and when it stops, you can move forward. If it's so crowded that you miss the train because you weren't right up against the yellow line, oh well. At least you can't fall off the platform if you're against the wall.
posted by cooker girl at 11:08 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait against the wall until the train comes in, and when it stops, you can move forward.

Unfortunately in New York, there's really no wall to lean on at express stations. I'm a big fan of standing next to columns, though.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:14 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


stay against the wall in a subway station. I've taught my children that, too. Wait against the wall until the train comes in

Good advice but useless on an island platform, like the one I stand on daily. It doesn't look like the platform in this case was an island.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:14 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


So if anyone is thinking "Christ that seems high!" about sevenyearlurk's figures above, then don't - they're not inflated to my mind.


That's how I can tell I've lived in a city and paid too much attention to public funding of projects for maybe too long. I'm presented with numbers like $6-10 million per station/three quarters of a billion total and actually thought "that seems about right." Infrastructure is fucking expensive folks.

At least you can't fall off the platform if you're against the wall.

I'd be lying if I didn't say that taking the train last night and this morning, after thinking about this story so much, I wasn't much more aware of where I was standing and doing the exact same thing, even with no crowds.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:16 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


That made me ashamed to be a journalist.
posted by xenophile at 11:20 AM on December 5, 2012


At least you can't fall off the platform if you're against the wall.

This was instilled upon me by my paranoid mother basically as soon as I started riding the subway alone: if you don't stand with your back against something, some maniac is going to push you onto the tracks, guaranteed.

I still get a little twitchy when I'm not leaning up against something.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:30 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


New York Posts gonna New York Post. If you think all this condemnation accomplishes anything other than making them squeal with glee, you're fooling yourself. They have no delusions about what they do.

Don't feed the trolls.

Side note: I appreciate something someone said about my local trash rag, The Toronto Sun once..."every day they run a sports story on their cover is a day they're not poisoning the debate on an issue that really matters."
posted by dry white toast at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's lost in all this is how mental illness is a driving force for much homelessness, with more than the occasional tragedy resulting. No doubt the homeless man is most likely mentally ill, and had poor or no access at all to services. A tragedy, all around, for the victim, the perp, those who witnessed this tragedy, and our news consuming public - all because a mentally ill, homeless man is allowed to roam the streets, untreated.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Toronto subway stations have switches to cut all power to the tracks, in both directions, that anyone can use in an emergency.
You can turn the track power off if it is necessary in an emergency. For example, if a person has fallen to the tracks or someone is caught in the door of a car and the train starts moving, you should cut the track power. Go to the nearest Emergency Power Cut Cabinet. There is one at each end of every subway/RT platform; it is marked by a blue light. The instructions on the panel will show you how to cut the power to tracks in both directions.
There are some very narrow platforms in Toronto, like Eglinton station, where you have less than six feet of space between the wall and the open track. These are not fun to negotiate during rush hour.
posted by maudlin at 11:40 AM on December 5, 2012


At the risk of appearing callous I don't fully understand the revulsion the photo seems to be generating. I mean my initial response was "eugh, why would anyone print that" but objectively speaking why does it matter?

If one takes the photographer at his word that there was nothing he could do to help the man, does the photo or who profits from it matter? My personal ethical barometer mostly depends on not harming others. By that measure, and given the premise that the man on the tracks couldn't be saved, who is harmed by the photo? The only argument I can think of is it causes needless suffering for the dead man's family and friends, but that seems relatively small measured against the reality of his passing and it's not a specific argument I've seen made in this thread or the linked articles.

Instead the response seems to be that profiting from these sorts of shocking/morbid/gory photos is wrong. I emotionally agree that it's highly distasteful, but why is it wrong per se? It's not against the law, and it can't make the man any deader. Who is harmed? Is my family/friends suffering argument enough? But then can't the argument be made that any upsetting photo might cause someone grief, so where do we as a society draw the line? Maybe, also, part of the reason we don't like the NYP running the photo is it seems disrespectful? But of who or what? The man is dead and beyond caring.

I'm not making an argument one way or the other, I'm just trying to analyze my own reaction and that of others somewhat more objectively. I genuinely want to hear people's analysis of my question.

Vibrissae also makes a good point. Why is the main conversation about our collective distaste for the photo rather than the underlying issues she mentions?
posted by Wretch729 at 11:41 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think there's a more direct antecedent to this photo, one that raises some of the same questions -- Stanley Forman's Pulitzer Prize winning photo of a woman and her goddaughter falling from a fire escape; and see also Falling Man from 9/11.

I think, especially after watching Lauer hound him, that I'm more forgiving of the photographer now -- but that Post hed is simply atrocious. Appallingly, it probably did result in higher street sales that day.

I'll just also sound in as to the practical impossibility of retrofitting safety features onto a subway system created more than a century ago by three separate entities that to this day has an incredible multiplicity of rolling stock, station platform lengths, track clearances, and so forth. They may be able to accomplish it with a brand new subway line, but unless it's sui generis and disconnected from the rest of the system, you're going to have compatability problems and a complete inability to substitute cars when required for service issues. As for why it was designed this way in the first place (pracowity, oxidizer), well, it comes from an era when normal civilian crowds would bustle right up to a train rolling in and do things like jump up to or off of access steps. Even to this day railroading is a brutal business with a high rate of death or permanent injury on the job (my brother is an engineer on a freight railroad). Back then people missing arms and legs from train accidents was a pretty common thing.

I also don't expect this accident to change a whole lot with regard to the system. The Chicago Metra system pretty much toughed it out when Rachel Barton (Pine) got dragged, eventually making a few small procedural changes. Even if the NYCTA were pushed to make platform safety a higher priority, and somehow had the billions, it would literally take decades to implement changes at enough stations to have a significant difference in the accident rate. That's the scale on which they operate. Chicago's CTA has a plan to renovate its 145 stations that is essentially going to last most of this century.

One small thing that I can point to in my lifetime is the gradual introduction of those nubby rubberized platform edges that are particularly for the blind but also helpful for sighted riders. But that's something that took years and years even to see become widespread on the CTA.
posted by dhartung at 11:44 AM on December 5, 2012


The text reads like a Silver Age Detective Comics cover.

Except without the part about Batman swooping in to save the guy on page 12.
posted by straight at 11:50 AM on December 5, 2012


The only argument I can think of is it causes needless suffering for the dead man's family and friends, but that seems relatively small measured against the reality of his passing and it's not a specific argument I've seen made in this thread or the linked articles.

What does "relatively small measured against the reality of his passing" mean? I have basically no doubt that this has harmed the family and friends of a man who just died and now has to see his death disrespectfully used to sell newspapers; disrespectful not only in the sense that it's being used to sell papers, but in that the framing is sensationalist and without any real sense of caring. If my wife died, and I had to see her horrified pre-death expression on every newsstand? That would harm me, a lot. I also think there's an extent to which anyone who sees that image is harmed; it's a shocking and horrible thing to see.

Obviously there are some photos that will be upsetting that should be shown, but that doesn't lead by a reverse slippery slope argument to the conclusion that it's never wrong to publish a photo because it will upset someone. Context matters. There are times that showing something horrible is the right choice and there are times when it isn't. It's not an easy thing to make hard fast rules about and a lot of it is based on feel and subjective balancing of the benefits to be gained from showing the picture.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:52 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos - I agree context matters, my question is where do we and/or where should we collectively draw the line and why? (meaning as a society, not just Metafilter) Dhartung's examples are relevant to this too.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:55 AM on December 5, 2012


The reason it's wrong to publish this photo is precisely for the reasons Vibrissae mentions: it turns social issues like how we deal with mental illness, homelessness, loss, trauma, etc. into a spectacle for profit. It appeals to our sensationalist impulses (which are not limited to this photo, natch) and the pleasure of disgust which come at the expense of the real, lived suffering the image occludes. It reduces the life and death of a human being to a grotesque snapshot. Personally, I believe there's not much substantively different between this shot and a caricaturish photo of a "starving African" (sic); but what makes us realize the disconnect so much more intensely with regard to this photo, is the reduced gap between the image of death and its social reality.
posted by Catchfire at 12:12 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos - I agree context matters, my question is where do we and/or where should we collectively draw the line and why?

I was mostly responding to the implication that this isn't a moral argument motivated by harm; I absolutely think it is. Line drawing is hard, but as I said above I think for me some of it has to do with why you're publishing the picture. Are you appealing to a voyeuristic desire to see someone die? I probably think that's inappropriate. Are you making a political statement? Probably okay. Is there artistic content? Probably okay. Honestly even little things like where the picture appears should matter; putting it on the cover makes it clear you're trying to sell magazines and there's less likely to be another statement being made.

Falling Man disturbs me, but it doesn't disgust me. I see artistic content (I understand this is subjective) that I don't see in the New York Post cover (I do see similar artistic content in the original photo, just not as cropped by the Post). The picture was not on the cover. The person is also not identifiable, which lessens the harm caused by it.

There are plenty of times that images of death are used to convey a political message, and that tends not to arouse the same disgust in me. That has as much to do with balancing benefits with harms; I understand the chance of someone being harmed by those images, but conveying political messages is sufficiently more valuable than selling papers to make me think that it's okay. Nguyễn Văn Lém as discussed above would fall into this category for me.

As I said, I think it's hard to make rules about these things and it's a difficult decision, but I also think it's clear that the Post was not thinking about these things in the right way at all.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:14 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


This summer, I was driving on a twisty mountain highway in Northern California when a van pulled up behind me going scarily fast. I swore. My friend asked me what was wrong, and I was about to tell him when the van tried to pass me in a blind curve because the driver couldn't see the oncoming car. That's when I started shouting. The van swerved back into the lane just behind me, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision. There was nowhere for me to pull over, because we were right up against the side of a mountain. The instant the oncoming car went by, the van swerved back into the oncoming lane and passed me. "Those guys are going to get somebody killed," I said. We pulled around the next turn in time to watch the van bounce off the guard rail - just saving it from a drop into a river - over correct, go up the side of the mountain and flip onto its side.

I should say now that both the driver and the passenger of the van lived through this, but the driver was the drunkest person I have ever seen.

I completely and totally froze. I stopped the car, and didn't move. My friend was already out of the car and running before I could even register what was happening. By the time he got to the car, the driver of the U-Haul truck that the van had JUST missed slamming into at full speed was already on top of the van pulling the two men out of it. He had reacted instantly. He was also fresh - like days - out of the Marine Corps on his way to paramedic training. The perfect person to be there, who had ample training and experience in how to react to intense situations. Those guys were seriously fucking lucky he was there.

I've spent a lot of time since then judging myself for freezing in those moments. Wishing I would have gone to try to save help the people in the van, rather than sitting there catatonic. I would have assured you beforehand that I would have instinctively run to help. But I would have been completely and totally wrong. I'm now hoping I do better next time. But how can I know?

The ambulance arrived surprisingly quickly given we were in the middle of nowhere.

Here's how I know that that Marine was a legitimate super hero, and I am not. While we were waiting for the police to arrive, he said "I'm really glad that barrier held. I did not want to get wet today." He was ready to jump into a river, and I'm shaking just thinking about it again.

That being said: fuck the Post.
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:16 PM on December 5, 2012 [41 favorites]


If they were serious about safety, they would install platform doors. Good luck finding the money and willingness to spend it this way, though.

This only works if all the trains have doors spaced at the same interval, and if the platforms are adequately ventilated (which they aren't in New York). And you won't ever be able to buy rolling stock that doesn't match the platform doors exactly. (Toronto has three different types of trains where the doors certainly do not line up, and New York has older and newer trains running on lines of both divisions.)

It's also worth noting that in order to have platform screen doors, you also need to have a level of train control that allows them to stop with their doors precisely lined up with the screen. For older systems, this is a significant investment in itself.

This also. The TTC does not have this capability at all, except maybe on the Scarborough RT, which will be gone in five years anyway. The NYC subway doesn't have this capability outside the L train.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:18 PM on December 5, 2012


If I hadn't been convinced before, I am now: the New York Post is shit in paper form. The world would be better without it.

Taking the train everyday, I'll stand on the platform while waiting on a train first in line, with a row of people lining up behind me. Sometimes it strikes me that someone could push me onto the tracks and my paranoia spikes. What I do is adjust my legs: right leg back, left leg front. I then bend my knees a bit and put as much weight as a can on the back leg. If someone push me I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get knocked down in this position. But I don't want to find out.
posted by zardoz at 12:33 PM on December 5, 2012


Because that photo wasn't published with the really immature headline of "DOOMED; this man is about to die.

I like that headline and how plain it is.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:34 PM on December 5, 2012


Also, was it the Post that ran a full-cover photo of either Uday or Qusay Hussein's dead and mutilated body back when that happened?

How is that different from how they made Muammar Gaddafi's abused corpse inescapable for a few inglorious days last year? Sure he was an insane madman and ruthless dictator, but people's stomachs tend not to take those kinds of matters into account.
posted by JHarris at 12:36 PM on December 5, 2012


Toronto subway stations have switches to cut all power to the tracks, in both directions, that anyone can use in an emergency.

Last year, some asshole was caught stealing copper cable from the NYC subway lines. When a subway hit the section without the cable, the emergency brake would trip, stranding passengers.

All NYC subway cars have an emergency brake inside. When a cord is pulled the train stops no matter where it may be. Malicious pulls are rare: a person pulling the cord would be trapped inside a stopped train with a bunch of furious commuters. Even when someone pulls the cord for a good reason, they're likely to get yelled at by other passengers.

Put something like that on the platform, where someone can't be held accountable for pushing the button maliciously, and they can easily escape to the outside.... man, that wouldn't end well.
posted by zarq at 12:39 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


If someone wanted to solve this right away, add 15-20 seconds to each stop by having the train slow down to walking speed before it enters the station so that the conductor can immediately stop when necessary without hitting anyone.

I haven't ridden BART in a long time, but my memory of it is that it creeps into the stations after slowing substantially in the tunnel.

How much more time this would cost the average commuter times 5 million times 365 days a year, I don't know, but it's an easy, immediate fix to the deaths while safety measures get worked out.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:45 PM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


...I also think it's clear that the Post was not thinking about these things in the right way at all.

That makes sense. Actually that's probably a big part of why this is upsetting that I overlooked; the decision to run the photo seems inconsiderate, in the sense of being thoughtless. Not that doing something bad is ok if you think hard about it first, but it would put everything in a different context. It seems like the Post unthinkingly went with the "if it bleeds it leads" instinct without deeper reflection. I guess that'll have to satisfy my question.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:46 PM on December 5, 2012


What I really can't stand is when Mayor LaGuardia passed that law that required every resident of New York City, together with anyone else working there, to buy the NY Post every day.

Your comment is really bad and stupid. I never buy the Post, and saw the cover all over the place yesterday, because it was on the front of the paper, which is easily viewable any time you're walking by the newsstand. We didn't have to seek out a photo of a man about to die gruesomely; we didn't have to buy anything; it was forced upon anyone out walking in public.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


How much more time this would cost the average commuter times 5 million times 365 days a year, I don't know, but it's an easy, immediate fix to the deaths while safety measures get worked out.

This is done in Toronto if platforms are deemed to be so crowded they're unsafe, or if someone is believed to be about to try to jump in front of the train, but doing this on the Yonge line, which is already beyond capacity at rush hour, would probably further crowd the platforms to the point where people are more likely to fall onto the tracks.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:58 PM on December 5, 2012


Amazing stats that the number of deaths are so low considering the huge amount of traffic the system carries.
For a technical fix, what about lowering barriers from the ceiling that are raised when a train is at the platform? You wouldn't need to exactly position the train or worry about handling different door alignments. If you used a mesh, you wouldn't need that much clearance either as it could fold up accordion style as it was raised.
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:18 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


For a technical fix, what about lowering barriers from the ceiling that are raised when a train is at the platform?

Most subway stations don't really have ceilings. A lot of times it's either a grate or the station is open air.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:23 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


add 15-20 seconds to each stop by having the train slow down to walking speed

Realistically you're probably talking about adding a minute per stop. Realize that right now the major lines in and into Manhattan run at minimum safety headways (space between trains) as it is. You're probably talking about reducing rush hour capacity by tens, if not hundreds of thousands of commuters. Rush hour capacity already results in dangerous by themselves levels of overcrowding, and as noted, could increase the number of commuters on a platform to where people are inadvertently getting pushed. The pedestrian entry to a subway station has a lot in common with the crowds entering a stadium when a stampede or crush occurs -- the new folks arriving have no way of knowing that the people ahead aren't being slow, stupid or stubborn -- they're jammed up against people who are just trying to stay safe or even alive.

what about lowering barriers from the ceiling

Again, any mechanical/technical fix is going to involve hundreds of stations, probably billions of dollars, and years and years -- decades, even -- of retrofit, regardless of what else is taking place to improve the system. This is something that can be considered for new subway lines or massive overhauls of an existing line but that poses problems of its own.
posted by dhartung at 1:46 PM on December 5, 2012


It would be interesting if they could implement it into the new 2nd avenue subway line. I guess our grandchildren will be the first generation to potentially benefit.
posted by elizardbits at 1:50 PM on December 5, 2012


Yeah, there are 468 stations in the system. Each with at least two platforms.

What we need is for someone to invent small force field emitters. :)
posted by zarq at 1:51 PM on December 5, 2012


In Japan, many stations have this kind of barrier to prevent accidents--and suicides, an all-too-frequent occurrence. There are hundreds and hundreds (thousands?) of stations in Tokyo alone, and the majority do not have these barriers, but they are slowly being installed in various places.
posted by zardoz at 2:10 PM on December 5, 2012


Toronto subway stations have switches to cut all power to the tracks, in both directions, that anyone can use in an emergency. ...

Put something like that on the platform, where someone can't be held accountable for pushing the button maliciously, and they can easily escape to the outside.... man, that wouldn't end well.


The power cut device in Toronto isn't like your exposed and easy to use cord: it looks like this. You really have to commit to a noisy disruption in full view of other people on the platform.

I think we have our fair share of assholes in this city, and some malicious use of the device has probably happened, but not often enough to be an issue in the media. I don't ride the TTC much these days -- I'll take my chances on my bike, thank you very much -- but back when I was commuting 5 days a week, I can't ever remember the power cut device being used when I was in the system, nor did I hear about this from anyone I knew.

Of course, I have also never heard of the power cut device saving anyone. It seems to get hit after an accident, not before.
posted by maudlin at 2:16 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


National Press Photographers Association Ethics Committee chairman John Long blogs about the photograph controversy here.
posted by blaneyphoto at 2:21 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Michael Shaw focuses on the content of the photo instead of the controversy over publishing it.
Beyond the pitched cries of editorial impropriety, however, perhaps it’s not all clear what the subway photo is really about. When you think about it, for example, what the photo offers is not the story of what happened so much as its consequence. What’s missing in the photo is “the perp,” the push — the event which resulted in the horrible result we’re exposed to above. There is video of arguing, but the infamous photo itself is almost deafeningly solitary, as if Mr. Han got himself in this death trap alone. Thus, if there’s a deeper critique of the photo, it’s that the catalyst and real subject of concern is missing.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:30 PM on December 5, 2012


...when it comes to Metro systems, it's generally pretty easy (and cost effective) to do stuff as long as its done or planned for when the system is built.

When they added a single new stairway at the Chambers Street Station 1/9,2,3 it cost over 2 million dollars. When they dug up the sidewalk they didn't find what they had expected under there. There was a six foot deep eroded cavern under the whole corner. The plans had to be redrawn, and the process set back to zero. Etc, Etc.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:05 PM on December 5, 2012


This Is Why Yesterday’s New York Post Cover Matters to You
posted by homunculus at 3:12 PM on December 5, 2012


What I like is how people commenting on the Internet (though MeFi manages to be a sort-of exception, thankfully) always know that they would have acted with perfect foresight had they been present on the scene. It is a pity these people never leave their computer terminals long enough to be in an actual crisis situation.
posted by vidur at 3:24 PM on December 5, 2012


This Is Why Yesterday’s New York Post Cover Matters to You

Everyone has a camera now. Yet another aspect of David Brin's transparent society.
posted by zarq at 3:24 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


That full image is a hell of a good photograph

I agree with you - there's no fucking way that picture was taken at arm's length. No way. Look at that framing and focus. If you're snapping off shots - with a heavy-ass DSLR at arms length, I can tell you that are very rarely in focus and never, ever straight. Maybe he could have reached the guy, maybe not. But dude made a conscious choice either way to line up a picture instead.

Interesting, too, how a "freelance" photographer knows so little about cameras and flashes that he thinks 1/64th on a flash is a reference to seconds. I think the dude is a hobbyist/enthusiast with pretension to photography, had been out snapping for a few hours and was still in that bower bird kind of mode you get when you've been taking pictures for a while, where your first instinct becomes to snap everything and anything - and his first instinct was to snap here, too.

I might add, unless he has a really fantastic DSLR and a really fantastic flash (which is certainly doesn't appear to from the pics, it is a heavy ass APSC or bigger camera with a chunky f2.8 or lower zoom lens, though), fifty pics - with flash, takes a while, even when it's charged to 1/64th. Would love to see the EXIF data on those photos. Suspect they'd tell a pretty interesting story with some significant differences to what he told.

Taking the picture doesn't make him a bad person - I had an experience like Zarq and DavidjMcGee when I was 17, and I froze up completely - but selling it, putting his ambitions as a photog above someone's dignity and the respect their life deserves, pretty much does in my book.
posted by smoke at 3:30 PM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Related to zardoz's comment, Kobelco and Tokyo University are working on a type of movable platform door that can adjust its opening depending on the type of train that comes in. English summary here.
posted by misozaki at 3:35 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if it's the same guy, this is not the work of a professional. This is the work of a hobbyist, and - like a lot of male hobbyist photographers on the internet, his ambitions are high; his estimation of his own abilities probably higher, and no doubt his belief in what photography is and its place in his identity/life higher still.

It's pretty gross in my opinion that we would sacrifice some of his humanity and the well-being of a grieving family so that he can put NY Post on the CV.
posted by smoke at 3:37 PM on December 5, 2012


Some thoughts on this situation. I've seen Naeem Davis in the neighborhood and know a few of the West African street vendors he helps carrying their loads to and from the storage places. The subway station where this tragic incident happened is a couple of minutes from where I live and where I will take the subway to work tomorrow morning. It's quite a long platform and I can well imagine the photographer was too far away to save the victim's life.

I do not think Naeem Davis is a madman, nor that this was a hate crime, nor that it was a deliberate intention to commit murder, but a terrible accident that happened after Davis pushed Han away. He may have mental, emotional or addiction issues, I don't know Davis personally, just seen him in the neighborhood, but I do not think he was deranged.

Others who have known or had contact with Naeem Davis in the neighborhood do not think he is mentally/emotionally unwell. He also routinely interacted with people of all nationalities in the Times Square area, helping street vendors for a number of years and having worked at a deli in the neighborhood.

I have had personal experience with the NY Post telling a grotesque lie after being interviewed by them and then, when I told them the information they printed was wrong, they deliberately repeated the lie. I think the way they used the photograph of Mr. Ki-Suck Han's imminent death was unethical and must have been devastating to his family.

Ki-Suck Han, the victim, was an unemployed former laundromat worker, had an empty pint bottle of vodka on him at noon, when he was killed by the oncoming train.

Trying to put the pieces together, it seems that Davis bumped into Han near the turnstile and Han was angry about this. Han, apparently, had just fought with his wife. He confronted Davis angrily and wouldn't let up. In any case, Davis told Han to leave him alone, go away and when Han did not, Davis pushed Han away from him. The force of the push was enough that Han fell onto the tracks.

There were 22 seconds between the time of the fall and the train hitting Han. During this time Davis ran away from Han, toward the exit. People may have been afraid, as the photographer said he was, to get anywhere near Davis, so onlookers ran away from Davis, leaving Han stranded, to die.

Here is the video of Naeem Davis angrily telling Ki-Suck Han to stay away from him. And here being arrested, walking peacefully into the car with the officers.

I think the moral of the story is that a subway/train platform is not a safe place to have an angry confrontation of any kind. Weird and unexpected things can and do happen on subway and train platforms (including, in this case having a random stranger kick a rat into one's face), so it's important around trains to be sober and alert. It's not a good idea to be drunk and get on the subway. It's important to know what to do in case one is accidentally pushed over the platfor edge.

My condolences to everyone involved.
posted by nickyskye at 3:46 PM on December 5, 2012 [31 favorites]


In my younger days, I jumped onto the tracks once to get something I dropped - my hat probably - and had no great difficulty in pushing myself back onto the platform.

That was two decades ago, but I wasn't that athletic then either.

But it isn't that hard to get out, and I certainly feel that if the photographer had dropped the fucking camera and gone to help he could have pulled him out.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:52 PM on December 5, 2012


Events should not always be News, especially when they involve people who are not public figures. Fuck the NY Post for putting this photo on the cover with that text.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:20 PM on December 5, 2012


This Is Why Yesterday’s New York Post Cover Matters to You

Also by Gizmodo: How To Prepare For The Next Tragedy With This Season's Hottest New Video Capture Gear
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:28 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting that, nickyskye. I retract my characterization of Davis as "psychotic". The video of him telling Han to leave him the f*** alone was enough to make me consider the push could have been accidentally fatal.
posted by surplus at 5:36 PM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I haven't ridden BART in a long time, but my memory of it is that it creeps into the stations after slowing substantially in the tunnel.

Only when they're on manual control, which is rare, or if the track setup requires it for other reasons (for example, southbound trains into Lake Merritt are programmed to crawl their way through the switch-heavy wye under downtown Oakland, then quickly accelerate just as they enter the station).

I just moved to Denver a few days ago and with this accident in the news was happy to see that a) all the light rail stations I'll be using regularly have the platform at the same grade as the trackways, and that because of this b) the trains (the same sweet Bredas that SF Muni uses!) slow to a crawl before they reach the platform. It seems much safer but it's a relatively new system, uses overhead power instead of a third rail, and isn't busy enough to have the insane headway issues that constrain systems like New York's (or even BART for that matter).
posted by Lazlo at 7:26 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


They're not just in Singapore.
Paris, too.


Some Tokyo stations have them. (Most don't)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:55 PM on December 5, 2012


I saw the photographer on CNN last night being interviewed. Anderson Cooper really went to bat for him, and made a statement before the interview that the photographer only agreed to come on if it was clear to the viewers he wasn't being paid.
posted by jamesonandwater at 8:59 AM on December 7, 2012


A New York City man was pushed to his death in front of a subway train in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Queens, police said, in the second such fatality this month.

The victim was sent tumbling onto the tracks into the path of a No. 7 train shortly after 8 p.m. Dec. 27 at the subway stop at Queens Boulevard and 40th Street, said Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department.

Police identified the victim as Sunando Sen, 46, a native of India who lived in Queens and had a printing business in New York City. He had no family in New York, according to police, who said they were still trying to contact his relatives.

posted by zarq at 9:48 PM on December 28, 2012


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