Essay on John Filo’s Kent State Massacre Image

The Kent State Massacre was one of the most tragic shootings that occurred on May 4, 1970. The shooting was conducted by the Ohio National Guard. Four students of the Kent State University were killed and many wounded in the result of the shooting. Occasionally, John Filo has managed to make a photo of a runaway girl screaming while kneeling over the body of a shot students lying dead on the ground. The Jhon Filo the Pulitzer Prize but more important the photo helped to raise the public opinion in defense of students’ protests against the war in Vietnam and involvement of the US in the war in Cambodia. In such a way, the photo incorporated the full controversy of the conflict between students and social activists, on the one hand, and the US army and policy makers, on the other, and helped to draw the public attention to problems students attempted to resolve through their protest.

In fact, the image depicting the screaming girl kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller, who was one of the four students shot dead in the course of the Kent State Massacre, was shot occasionally. John Philo, the staff photographer of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, was in the University photo lab, when he heard shooting. He ran out of the lab and saw the havoc provoked by the shooting. Later he confessed that, at first, his first intention was just to rush out of the campus to save his life. However, his professionalism turned out to be stronger than his instincts and he stayed on the site to make photos of the shooting. Eventually, he made his photo of Mary Ann Vecchio screaming over the killed student that brought the photographer the fame and the Pulitzer Price.

This photo depicts the despair of the young girl and shock of other students, who were around them. People on the photo seem to be puzzled and shock. Obviously, they have never expected to see one of their friend being shot dead. On the other hand, Mary Ann Vecchio screaming mirrors the true despair and dismay of all students, who came out to protest that day in the Kent State University. The photo depicts some students, who stand near the screaming girl with their eyes and mouths open in the shock and probably fear. The girl is desperately screaming in the dismay since she cannot help to the shot student. On the background, students are walking to and fro and they probably do not realize what actually is going on in the campus. John Filo made the photo occasionally and depicted true emotions of students, some of which were shocked and puzzled, while others could not even understand what was going on.

At the same time, the shooting was not as occasional as the photo was. Instead, the photo was made in the time of the students’ protest against the war declared by the US on Cambodia. The day before the Kent State Shooting President Nixon declared the war on Cambodia that provoked the outburst of students’ protests and rage against the aggressive foreign policy of the US. The decision of the President provoked the protest in many Universities throughout the US, including the Kent State University. In this regard, the protest launched by students was peaceful and did not involve any violence. Nevertheless, the authorities and law enforcement agencies were worried about students’ protests because they involved a large number of students. In addition, the law enforcement agencies were definitely anxious about students because students were young and full of energy that could provoke the confrontation with police officers and the National Guard as well as representatives of the authority in the city.

Therefore, the authorities took a decision to send the Ohio National Guard to prevent the violence. However, this decision was apparently erroneous because students associated the National Guard with the military, while their protest was against the military intervention of the US in Cambodia. Students mirrored the public opinion concerning the foreign policy of the US and military operations conducted by the US internationally. American citizens had been already fed up with the war in Vietnam and they could not afford the new war in Cambodia. This is why students rushed out on the streets to protest against the war declared by Nixon. Naturally, when they confronted the National Guard they could have the feeling that they are the next in the war line of Nixon. They probably believed that Nixon was ready to use the military power to suppress freedom in the US. Hence, the appearance of the National Guard provoked the clash of students and guardsmen. However, the shooting and massacre proper were probably occasional because bullets were not supposed to be live ammunition.

Thus, the photo depicted the outcomes of the clash of armless students and the National Guard. Remarkably, the photo had drawn the public attention to the protest and raised the public opinion against the foreign and domestic policy of the US.

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