After more than 40 years of traveling through and documenting Southeast Asia, renowned US-Vietnam War era photographer Tim Page is back in Cambodia for some unfinished business.
The 64-year-old photographer said in an interview Sunday in Phnom Penh that over the next few weeks he plans to track down new leads in the 1971 deaths of his friends and fellow journalists, Dana Stone and Sean Flynn.
Stone and Flynn were abducted near the Vietnam-Cambodian border in April 1970 and were killed the following year by their Khmer Rouge captors.
Page wants to continue the research he conducted in 1990 into the deaths of his friends, which led to the discovery of their remains in Kompong Cham province. Many questions still remain unanswered about their final days and how Stone and Flynn eventually met their end, he said.
“There are still a number of slightly loose ends,” Page said of his years of investigations, adding that his new research is a “retirement” project.
During this visit to Cambodia, Page said he has some freelance work to do for magazines, and he will also hold an exhibition of his photography at Meta House from Jan 3 to 7 that will feature some his photographs taken over the last 40 years.
“Whatever makes you click and tick you can find it and do it here in terms of stories, in terms of the people, in terms of the lifestyle,” Page said of his enduring interest in Asia. “You slip into this strange hole. It’s not a black hole. It’s far too colorful to be black,” he said.
Page is most famous for his work when he was part of a maverick group of young journalists and photographers who covered the Vietnam War, and their photographs and stories reflected the raw experiences of unfettered access to US troopers, battlefields and patrols.
Born in England, Page was in his early 20s when he began covering the war in 1965. Four years later in 1969 a piece of shrapnel stuck him in the head as he helped an injured US soldier into an evacuation helicopter. The accident ended his career as a war photographer.
Page’s reputation, however, lived on and influenced actor Dennis Hopper’s memorable portrayal of the frenetic photographer character in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Oscar-winning film, Apocalypse Now.
Page, who is now based in Brisbane, Australia, shrugged off some of the fame he has amassed over the decades pointing to other photographers who may not have the same name recognition, but have great portfolios of work.
“If you survived you have good pictures. But should you be judged on your character, or known for your character or should you be known for your images?” Page asked.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that Page returned to Vietnam for work, and it was then that his affair with Southeast Asia was renewed. With restored confidence he published several books of photographs of Southeast Asia and other areas such as Sri Lanka.
“When I come [to the region] I always feel that I am looking into my own soul more than when I am at home. Maybe Indochina makes you look in the mirror more,” he said.
In 1990, he returned to Cambodia and filmed a documentary called “Danger on the Edge of Town,” which was about his quest to tracks down the remains of Flynn and Stone.
Page said he hopes his forthcoming exhibition at Meta House, which will include his pictures from throughout the region, will pass along some lessons taught by the Vietnam War, which he called a metaphor of “the mess we have put the planet into.”
“I can lock something into someone’s mind and make them think twice… If I can raise awareness of one percent I am winning,” he said.