New York Subway Death Photo: Local Photographer Reacts

Tom Dunn gives his thoughts following the controversial photo of a man hanging from a subway platform moments before he was killed by an oncoming train.

A photo of a man just before he was killed by a subway train in New York City has sparked discussion across the country over what the photographer could have done to help him.

The photographer has defended himself since Monday’s incident, and police have arrested a man authorities believe pushed the victim in the path of the oncoming train.

Tom Dunn—a photographer who takes pictures for the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce, Woodbury Community Foundation and Woodbury Days, among others—was asked to weigh in on the matter.

“It’s hard to judge the photographer when you’re not there,” Dunn said. “But morally, you help the guy if you could.”

Without seeing all the images taken by R. Umar Abbasi—a freelance photographer for the New York Post—Dunn said it’s difficult to determine what could have been done differently.

“It’s a tough one,” he said. “If he could have helped out, he should have.”

Yet Dunn also said there’s a “documentary part of it that could be used in the investigation.”

“Should it be brought up in the court case or run in the paper?” he said.

Which brings up another part of the discussion.

The New York Post has come under scrutiny for its decision to run the photo, and Dunn said that while he’s not in the news business, he would not have published the photo.

“That’s where I’d be mad, as the public,” Dunn said, adding that the decision was likely made “to sell newspapers.”

Dunn has come across a tragic situation as a photographer.

Ten or 12 years ago, he was driving near Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis when he saw a number of squad cars and emergency vehicles. Authorities were pulling a body out of the water.

He wound up selling an image to the Pioneer Press, but did think about the family of the victim and whether they would want to see it in the paper.

Dunn said his photos focused on the job of the authorities wading into the water to recover a body on a cool fall day.

“The human side of it,” he said.


What do you think about what happened and/or the paper's decision to run the photo? Tell us in the comments section.


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Cynthia Cincoski December 06, 2012 at 10:26 PM
From the reports that I have heard it sounds like there were quite a number of people around, at the very time it all happened, who did nothing to help the poor man. Fear of being pulled down by the man onto the tracks while trying to pull him up was one possible excuse, but this was a small man who several people could have quickly worked together to save. Instead I heard that a lot of the people decided to take pictures themselves with their phones. I feel I would have at least tried to do something, anything to help but then again I wasn't there.


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