Page in Vietnam
By Ian Willox.
A very colourful account of Tim Page's time in Vietnam.
Contains adult themes.
Is it un-karmic popping caps?
Is it un-karmic popping caps?
Tim Page left England in 1962 making his way overland driving through Europe, Pakistan, India, Burma, Thailand and Laos. Without money in Laos, he found work as an agricultural advisor for USAID. He began work as a press photographer in Laos stringing for UPI and AFP, having taught himself photography. His exclusive photographs of an attempted coup d'état in Laos in 1965 for UPI got him a staff position in the Saigon bureau of the news agency. He is celebrated for his work as a freelance accredited press photographer in Vietnam and Cambodia during the 1960s, also finding time to cover the Six-Day War in the Middle East in 1967. Due to a near-death experience in the early 60s, he came to view his life as 'free time'. This led him to take photographs in dangerous situations where other journalists would not venture. Similarly, Page was captured by the excitement and glamour of warfare, which helped contribute to the style of photographs he is acclaimed for. Page's personality and lifestyle in Vietnam have been portrayed by others. Page himself does not shy away from the drug culture he was involved in during his time in Vietnam, devoting a large amount of his book Page after Page to it. In Dispatches, Michael Herr wrote of Page as the most 'extravagant' of the 'wigged-out crazies running around Vietnam', due in most repects to the amount of drugs that he enjoyed taking. His unusual personality was part of the inspiration for the character of the journalist played by Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.
Page was injured in action four times. The first, in 1965, was in Chu Lai where he was struck by shrapnel in the legs and stomach; the second was in Da Nang during Buddhist riots (1966), where he received more shrapnel wounds to the head, back, and arms; the third in August 1966 happened in the South China sea where the Coast Guard cutter he was on was mistaken for a Viet Cong, and Air Force pilots strafed the vessel, leaving Page adrift at sea with over 200 wounds. Lastly, in April 1969 Page jumped out of a helicopter to help load wounded soldiers. At the same time, a sergeant stepped on a mine close by, sending a 2-inch piece of shrapnel into Page's head. This list of injuries led his colleagues in the field to joke that he'd never make it to 23 years of age. He spent the next year in the United States of America undergoing extensive neuro-surgery. During recovery he became closely involved with the Vietnam Veterans peace movement[vague] and worked as a caregiver for amputees, traumatically shocked and stressed young men. One of these was Ron Kovic.
On 9 December 1967, Page was arrested in New Haven, Connecticut along with fellow journalists Mike Zwerin and Yvonne Chabrier at the infamous Doors concert where Jim Morrison was arrested onstage. Charges against all four were dropped due to lack of evidence.
In the 1970s Page worked as a freelance photographer for music magazines like Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone. During his recovery in the spring of 1970 he learnt of the capture of his best friend, roommate and fellow photo-journalist Sean Flynn in Cambodia. Throughout the 70s and 80s he tried to discover Flynn's fate and final resting place and wanted to erect a memorial to all those in the media that either were killed or went missing in the war. This led him to found the Indochina Media Memorial Foundation and was the genesis for the book Requiem. His quest to clear up the mystery of Flynn's fate continues: as late as 2009, he was back in Cambodia still searching for the site of Flynn's remains.
Page's book Requiem contains photographs taken by all of the photographers and journalists killed during the wars against the Japanese, French and Americans. Requiem has become since the early 2000 a traveling photographic exhibition placed under the custody of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. The exhibition has been presented in Vietnam's War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh city, as well as in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Tokyo, Hanoi, Lausanne, London. In 2011, it was selected to be the main exhibition of the Month of Photography Asia in Singapore.
Page is the subject of many documentaries and two films and the author of many books. He lives in Brisbane, Australia now and no longer covers wars. He is Adjunct Professor of Photojournalism at Griffith University.
"I had died. I lived. I had seen the tunnel. It was black. It was nothing. There was no light at the end. There was no afterlife. Nothing religious about any of it. And it did not seem scary. It was a long, flowing, no-colour wave which just disappeared. The mystery was partly resolved, all the fearful church propaganda took on its true, shameful meaning. I was content. I was alive. I was not dead, and it seemed very clear, very free. This was the dawning, the overture to losing a responsible part of my psyche. A liberation happened at that intersection. Anything from here on would be free time, a gift from the gods"
Quote concerning his near-death experience following a 1960 motorcycle accident.