Tim Page’s Vietnam War
Tim Page is a photojournalist of the old school. He arrived in Saigon, South Vietnam, in 1965, when he was 20 years old. Over the next few years, Tim saw enough Agent Orange and Viet Cong to last anyone a lifetime, but he didn’t stop going to dangerous places and taking incredible photos.
After Vietnam, Tim freelanced for Rolling Stone while travelling the world, with stopovers in Laos, Cambodia, Bosnia, and elsewhere. In 2009 he was a UN Photographic Peace Ambassador in Afghanistan. He has set up charity organizations like the Indochina Media Memorial Foundation, which honors the legacy of journalists who died covering wars in that region through workshops and tutoring programs, and mentored young photographers throughout Southeast Asia. Oh, and he’s the author of nine books, including the widely acclaimed Requiem, a collection of pictures from photographers who died in the Vietnam War.
I recently got the chance to share a joint with Tim and talk about his time in the Vietnam War, his time in the world since then, and the impending doom of photojournalism.
VICE: Did you always know you wanted to be a photographer?
Tim Page: No, I had no idea. When I finally left Europe I was planning to be in Australia for Christmas, 1962. I got as far as Lahore in West Pakistan. After I left England for Europe, I worked at the Heineken brewery and a chewing gum factory. I worked as a chambermaid, sous-chef, and also smuggled hash from the Khyber region in Pakistan. I had 15 pounds to get to Australia when I left Europe.
Fifteen pounds of hash?!
No, 15 pounds cash. We sold blood in Greece; I was also an extra in a film in Bombay. I gradually sold off all my possessions—I was down to like two sets of clothes. I’d sold everything else: the cameras, my clothes, even our entire plastic cutlery set… I sold my Kombi van to a bunch of crooked Sikhs—that enabled me to fly to Thailand via Burma. I had a really freaky month in Burma. When I ended up getting to Thailand I sold cod liver oil pills, flashlight bulbs, cheap watches, and encyclopedias and taught English. We used to go up to Laos and buy ten cartons of French-style black tobacco cigarettes, which were about one dollar a carton, and we’d come back to Bangkok and sell them for a dollar a pack. During the second day in Laos I bumped into a few Americans that told me US Aid was hiring third-party nationals to run Lao crews.
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Coolest life ever.