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[1971 · John Filo · Spot News Photography]

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FILO CAPTURED SHOCK OF KENT STATE SHOOTINGS

John Filo took the 1970 iconic Pulitzer Prize winning photo that changed America during the protests at Kent State. The photo was of a 14-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over a dead 20-year-old Jeffrey Miller, who had been shot by the National Guard.

Filo grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and decided to pursue a career in photojournalism at Kent State University. At the time of the shootings, he was working for a satellite paper of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review while also attending Kent State as a student.

After the events at Kent State, Filo won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography while working for the Valley Daily News. From there, he advanced quickly in the field of photojournalism.

Filo found work at the Associated Press, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Baltimore Evening Sun, Sports Illustrated and Newsweek. In 1995 he joined CBS, where since 2014 he has been vice president of CBS photography.

Filo is passionate about the photographs he took. “As a photographer, it is nice to know that there is a photo that you have taken that will live a little longer than you will,” he said in an interview with CNN in 2000.

On the 25th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, Filo and Vecchio met for the first time at Emerson College in Boston. They met again on the 39th anniversary of the shootings on the Kent State campus.

Decades after the events of Kent State unfolded, Filo said on CNN he still lives with the shock. At the time, Filo couldn’t believe the events that were happening and thought he had to shoot it just to prove it was real.

Despite these traumatizing moments in his life, Filo does his best to capture the essence of the stories he covers. He says objective photos don’t exist, that a photo has to be subjective in order to evoke a reaction out of readers or tell a story.

In the CNN interview he said, “That is the job of the photographer — simplify all that visual space, and put a frame around all that space, and say ‘this is what is important.’”

by Rob Stephens
PULITZER ENTRY MATERIALS:

A slideshow of some of John Filo’s photographs from May 4, 1970:

A sampling of some of the other publications around the world that used John Filo’s iconic photograph:

The Pulitzer nomination letter and a biography of John Filo.

The front page of The Valley Daily News and Daily Dispatch including an account of the Kent State shootings written by John Filo.

MORE INFORMATION:

The controversy over the two different versions of John Filo’s famous photo is explained.

On the 39th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, Marie Ann Vecchio and John Filo were reunited when speaking at Kent State.