"On May 4th, 1970, John Filo was a young undergraduate working in the Kent State photo lab. He decided to take a break, and went outside to see students milling in the parking lot. Over the weekend, following the burning of the ROTC building, thousands of students had moved back and forth from the commons area near to the hill in front of Taylor Hall, demonstrating and calling to an end to the war in Vietnam. John decided to get his camera, and see if he could get an interesting picture. He saw one student waving a black flag on the hillside, with the National Guard in the background. He shot the photograph, and feeling that he now had recorded the moment, wandered to the parking lot, where a lot of the students had gathered. Suddenly, G company of the Ohio National Guard opened fire. John thought they were shooting blanks, and started to take pictures.
A few second later, he saw Mary Vecchio crying over the body of one the students who had just been killed, Jeffrey Miller. He took the picture.
A few hours later, he started to transmit the pictures he had taken to the Associated Press from a small newspaper in Pennsylvania."
©Dirck Halstead, The Digital Journalist
The photograph won him a Pulitzer. To take the picture John used a Nikkormat camera with Tri X film and most of the exposures were 1/500 between 5.6 and f 8.
Note: An altered version of John Filo's famous picture has over the years been published a number of times instead of the real Filo Pulitzer Prize Winner shown on below. The altered version appeared as recently as May 1st, 1995 in the LIFE magazine article, "Caught in time" , page 38. At some point in the early 1970s someone removed a pole that was apparently sticking out of Vecchio’s head. Time has all of it’s articles on line, unfortunately without photos. Life ran the altered image in an article in May, 1995. David Friend, Life’s Director of Photography, attempted to justify this use – he stated that “LIFE did not and does not manipulate news photos. The photo we published was supplied to us by our photo library–the Time-Life Picture Collection….Amazingly, the fence post had been airbrushed out by someone, now anonymous, in a darkroom sometime in the early 1970′s. The picture had run numerous times–without the fencepost, and without anyone taking notice–in TIME (Nov. 6, 1972, p. 23) PEOPLE (May 2, 1977, p. 37), TIME (Jan. 7, 1980, p. 45), PEOPLE (April 31, 1990, p. 117) to name just a few publications. (via http://www.hennemanphoto.com/)
National Public Radio: "Shots Still Reverberate For Survivors Of Kent State"
"Out in the world, when people talk about the shootings at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, they call it "Kent State." But in the small town of Kent, 35 miles south of Cleveland, and on the university campus, they call it "May 4th." The full multi-media article is here.
Listen to John Filo recount the making of the photograph here.
John Filo was reunited with the photograph's subject, Mary Vecchio.