John Paul Filo (/ˈfl/; born August 21, 1948) is an American photographer[2][3][4][5] whose picture of 14-year-old runaway Mary Ann Vecchio screaming while kneeling over the dead body of 20-year-old Jeffrey Miller, one of the victims of the Kent State shootings, won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1971. At the time, Filo was both a photojournalism student at Kent State University, and staffer of the Valley Daily News, which became the Valley News Dispatch - now a satellite paper for the Greensburg Tribune-Review.

John Filo
John Paul Filo

(1948-08-21) August 21, 1948 (age 74)
Notable creditPulitzer Prize-winner


After winning the Pulitzer Prize while working for the Valley Daily News (a Gannett paper) of the Pittsburgh suburb of Tarentum, Pennsylvania, he continued his career in photojournalism, rapidly finding work at the Associated Press, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and as a picture editor at the Baltimore Evening Sun. He eventually rose to a picture editing job at the weekly news magazine Newsweek. He is now head of photography for CBS.[6]

Taking the pictureEdit

Mary Ann Vecchio meeting John Filo at Kent State University, May 2009

The Kent State shooting by members of the Ohio National Guard occurred at Kent State University in the city of Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970, and resulted in the deaths of four students. At the time John Filo was in the university student photography lab when the shots rang out. He quickly ran outside and below recalls what happened:

The bullets were supposed to be blanks. When I put the camera back to my eye, I noticed a particular guardsman pointing at me. I said, "I'll get a picture of this," and his rifle went off. And almost simultaneously, as his rifle went off, a halo of dust came off a sculpture next to me, and the bullet lodged in a tree.

I dropped my camera in the realization that it was live ammunition. I don't know what gave me the combination of innocence and stupidity ... I started to flee--run down the hill and stopped myself. "Where are you going?" I said to myself, "This is why you are here!"

And I started to take pictures again. ... I knew I was running out of film. I could see the emotion welling up inside of her. She began to sob. And it culminated in her saying an exclamation. I can't remember what she said exactly ... something like, "Oh, my God!"

— John Filo talking about the Kent State shootings[7]

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 depending on whether the sun was behind a cloud or not.[7]

Altered photoEdit

In the early 1970s, an anonymous editor airbrushed the fence post above Mary Ann Vecchio's head out of Filo's Pulitzer Prize Winner photograph. Since then, the altered photo has circulated and has been reprinted in many magazines.[8][9][10][11] Numerous publications, including Time (Nov. 6, 1972, p. 23; Jan. 7, 1980, p. 45) and People (May 2, 1977, p. 37; April 30, 1990, p. 117), have used the altered image without knowing it.[12]

Meeting with Mary Ann VecchioEdit

In 1995, Filo met Mary Ann Vecchio for the first time, when both were scheduled to appear at an Emerson College conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of the shootings. The two met again on the Kent State University campus, at the 39th commemoration in May 2009, where they both spoke.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Bill O'Driscoll (July 5, 2007). "Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper photos tell their stories in Capture the Moment, at the History Center". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved 2007-07-27.
  2. ^ Rosenberg, David (4 May 2013). "Personal Remembrances of the Kent State Shootings, 43 Years Later". Slate.
  3. ^ Zhang, Michael (29 August 2012). "The Kent State Massacre Photo and the Case of the Missing Pole".
  4. ^ Lilley, Bill (6 May 2009). "PULITZER WINNER JOHN FILO, PHOTO'S SUBJECT, REUNITED AT KENT STATE". National Press Photography Association.
  5. ^ Schweitzer, Callie (14 December 2010). "For One Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer, Some Days Are Never Forgotten". Neon Tommy.
  6. ^ DuBois, Maurice (October 8, 2017). "Pulitzer-winning photographers teach how to capture the moment". CBS News. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  7. ^ a b Filo, John (May 4, 2000). "Photographer John Filo discusses his famous Kent State photograph and the events of May 4, 1970". CNN. Retrieved 2007-07-27.
  8. ^ Kantor, Andrew (February 12, 2004). "Image manipulation means seeing isn't believing". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
  9. ^ "Digital Tampering in the Media, Politics and Law". Dartmouth College. 2000. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
  10. ^ Lucas, Dean. "Kent State Shooting". Famous Pictures Magazine. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
  11. ^ "Re-imaging History". Wired. 2000. Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. Retrieved 2013-07-26.
  12. ^ David Friend Director of Photography at LIFE (2000). "Mystery of the missing pole, solved!". ZoneZero. Retrieved 2007-07-26.

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