The photo for my assignment is “Kent State Massacre” by John Filo. It was taken on May 4, 1970, the day of the tragedy. The photo would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Spot New Photography.
At the time of the event, Filo was a senior at Kent State. He was a photo-journalism major who brought his camera to the protest. The photos he took were used in papers across the country. In one of those papers, The Pittsburg Post-Gazette, he describes what he witnessed in an editorial.
Filo saw the protestors assaulting the National Guardsmen, and even found it amusing. When they started to move up a hill, he thought nothing of it, until they turned around.
“The National Guard reached the crest of the hill at Taylor Hall…they suddenly turned, faced the crowd, and dropped to one knee. Then they began firing.” Filo’s first reaction was to assume they were firing blanks. The reactions of his fellow students are what made him realize otherwise. Looking through his camera, a student lying face down in a puddle of blood caught his attention. A picture taken late of this student, Jeffery Miller, and a friend, Mary Ann Vecchio, screaming over him would be the subject of the iconic photo this project is based on.
During the shooting Filo briefly dropped his camera as a result of the gravity of the situation. Before and after the shooting occurred, Filo was able to get more photographs of the protesters and the guardsmen. Some of these photos are also included in that issue of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.
Over a year later, Filo’s now Pulitzer Prize photo would be used in a New York Times Article about the delays in a probe about the Kent State Shootings. The picture’s use and award show the relevance the photo had at that time.