In 1969 the Munich art dealer, Dorothea Leonhart, asked Hamilton if he would be interested in producing a print for her in a large edition. Rising to the challenge of trying to achieve excellence on a large scale, Hamilton agreed, on the condition that it would be the same high quality as a small edition yet be sold cheaply. In looking for source material Hamilton has said, 'it had been on my mind that there might be a subject staring me in the face from the TV screen. To this end he set up a camera and watched television every evening for a week in May 1970, a shutter release in his hand. There were many potential topics- scenes from football matches, light entertainment, news items or even the newsreader himself. Then, in the middle of the week, there came about a shameful bloodshed at Kent State University in the State of Ohio, when National Guardsmen opened fire on students demonstrating against the Vietnam War. Reflecting on the results at the end of the week, though haunted by these images, Hamilton was reluctant to use Kent State. It seemed to him too tragic an event in American history to be 'used' in a work of art. However, after some soul searching, he decided to work with this highly charged subject because he felt that art could keep the memory of this mindless horror alive. The large edition and the likely wide distribution of the image would perhaps be Hamilton’s contribution to our collective conscience.
One of several Hasselbad transparencies showed a student, Dean Kahler, caught in the gunfire, lying on a road with his head inclined towards the viewer. In a later interview Hamilton said, 'The clearest thing about it was that it was degraded...The television image of Kent State had already been translated through so many different projections and re-assimilations by other devices, that it had been considerably degraded. But I prefer to think of it as simply being changed since that avoids making a value judgement. You're changing it into something else, but every factor of the change is the result of a precise filter, so to speak. Each change is related in a very harmonious way to whatever has happened to it. In spite of the many transmogrifications, what is left always has a kind of validity. So every change that I have made, so long as my hand didn’t come into it, and as long as I didn't tamper with it in a physical way, had its own authenticity, too. The authenticity of the image is preserved because Hamilton continued to use only photographic- in a sense objective- means to change it. Through the rounded corners and broad marring on the right-hand side, the print makes it explicit that the source material was a television picture. As Hamilton himself points out, the original context that he wrote describing with painstaking accuracy the production of this screenprint makes not a single mention of the terrible events themselves. This utterly detached description simulated the working of the incorruptible eye of the camera, which seems much more ominous than a sentimental litany of personal outrage. Hamilton described Kent State as the most 'onerous' print project he ever undertook.
From, Richard Hamilton, Prints and Multiples 1939-2002, Kunstmuseum Winterthur/ Richter Verlag Dusseldorf, 2002