Carter had started to work as weekend sports photographer in 1983. In 1984 he moved on to work for the Johannesburg Star, bent on exposing the brutality of apartheid.
Carter was the first to photograph a public execution by "necklacing" in South Africa in the mid-1980s. He later spoke of the images; "I was appalled at what they were doing. I was appalled at what I was doing. But then people started talking about those pictures... then I felt that maybe my actions hadn't been at all bad. Being a witness to something this horrible wasn't necessarily such a bad thing to do.
In March 1993 Carter made a trip to southern Sudan. The sound of soft, high-pitched whimpering near the village of Ayod attracted Carter to a young emaciated Sudanese toddler. The girl had stopped to rest while struggling to a feeding center, wherein a vulture had landed nearby. He said that he waited about 20 minutes, hoping that the vulture would spread its wings. It didn't. Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away. However, he also came under heavy criticism for just photographing — and not helping — the little girl:
The photograph was sold to The New York Times where it appeared for the first time on March 26, 1993. Practically overnight hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask whether the child had survived, leading the newspaper to run a special editor's note saying the girl had enough strength to walk away from the vulture, but that her ultimate fate was unknown.
On April 2, 1994 Nancy Buirski, a foreign New York Times picture editor, phoned Carter to inform him he had won the most coveted prize for photography. Carter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography on May 23, 1994 at Columbia University's Low Memorial Library.
According to Silva, they (Carter and Silva) went to Sudan with the United Nations aboard Operation Lifeline Sudan and landed in Southern Sudan on March 11, 1993. The UN told them that they would take off again in 30 minutes (the time necessary to distribute food), so they ran around looking to take shots. The UN started to distribute corn and the women of the village came out of their wooden huts to meet the plane. Silva went looking for guerrilla fighters, while Carter strayed no more than a few dozen feet from the plane.
Again according to Silva, Carter was quite shocked as it was the first time that he had seen a famine situation and so he took many shots of the children suffering from famine. Silva also started to take photos of children on the ground as if crying, which were not published. The parents of the children were busy taking food from the plane so they had left their children only briefly while they collected the food. This was the situation for the girl in the photo taken by Carter. "God was smiling on Kevin." A vulture landed behind the girl. To get the two in focus, Carter approached the scene very slowly so as not to scare the vulture away and took a photo from approximately 10 metres. He took a few more photos and then the vulture flew off.
Silva stated that he also took similar photos, but didn't win the Pulitzer Prize. "That's just the way things go."