Tim … a LEGEND in the REAL sense of the word …
Born in Tunbridge Wells in Kent UK (not far from where I was ‘brung up’ some years later), Tim went on to become one of the most adventurous, successful and colourful conflict photojournalists on the planet.
Yesterday was his last day on that planet …
I’ve been fortunate to not only have been aware and in awe of Tim’s work since the late ’60’s but to have met and chatted with Tim on many occasions over the decades. Not enough occasions … but somewhat privileged nevertheless …
One of my fondest memories of the irrepressible Tim was on ‘Table 55’ at the 2016 Walkley Awards in Brisbane. What must have been the best and most enjoyable table of the evening consisted of eventual ‘Gold Walkley’ winner and younger photojournalist legend Andrew Quilty (and his delightful mum Ann), photography journalist Alison Steven-Taylor, fellow photojournalist Michael Amendolia, little ol’ me … and Tim escorting his lovely partner Marianne Harris. The best way to spend any eve … and a great way to celebrate my little win in the Nikon Walkley Portrait Prize.
In the pics below the two ‘Legends’ Tim and Andrew ‘chew the cud’ following Andrew’s big win (second image from top) … and (third from top) Tim watches the announcement of my Nikon Walkley Portrait Award with Marianne.
It was whilst nattering at table 55 that Tim broached the idea of a ‘print swap’. He fancied a signed copy of my winning portrait of “Abdullatif – Beaten Refugee”.
Bloody ‘ell … I was distinctly honoured and more than happy to oblige !
As sometimes happens all went a little quiet on the issue … until a couple of YEARS later when this turned up in the mail (top below) … a signed print …
“Ambush of 173rd Airborne – Iron Triangle – 1965”
Tim made this image very early on in his stella career whilst covering a Vietcong ambush of the US 173rd in South Vietnam. His work from this action saw his first publication in ‘Life’ magazine. Several of Tim’s images of this ambush aftermath are infamous and all over the net … but I’ve found no evidence of this particular frame elsewhere (please correct me if I’m wrong.)
It will be treasured …
Here’s how Tim described his work covering the ambush …
“It was Larry Burrows who had to teach me how to load my first Leica M3; I got it as a perk having just had this image (nb – a similar image at the scene but including helicopters) run as a vertical double truck in a 5-page spread in LIFE in the fall of ’65.
At the same time that Hello Dolly opened at Nha Trang airbase, a company of 173rd Airborne had walked into an ambush in Viet Cong base zone, known as the Iron Triangle. The sign had read “American who read this die.”
A class of prime youth shredded in seconds.
The dust-offs started coming within 30 minutes. I got a ride back to Ton San Nhut and was downtown in Room 401 of the Caravelle in another 30. Mostly, I remember carrying a badly wounded grunt whose leg came off and he almost bled out.”
(Notes … ‘dust-off’ was the lingo (and call sign) for casualty evacuation by helicopter … the Caravelle was the hotel in central Saigon where the media invariably stayed (and is still there.)
Tim also personally signed my copy of his book ‘Requiem’ … the brilliant volume he collated containing the work of the photographers and journalists killed during the Vietnamese wars against the Japanese, French and Americans. ‘Requiem’ became a must see traveling photographic exhibition that traversed the planet. Fittingly and luckily I took in the exhibition when it was presented in Vietnam’s War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City in 2014.
The last image below was made when Tim visited Cairns TEN years ago to talk at the launch of the Degrees South Collection volume “WAR” … along with two other photojournalist members of Degrees South, David Dare Parker and Michael Coyne. Tim, David and Michael each signed my cherished copy … over one or two beers 😉
Tim survived injuries in action four times. The first in Chu Lai September 1965 when he was struck by shrapnel in the legs and stomach; the second during Buddhist riots in Da Nang in 1966 when he sustained more shrapnel wounds to the head, back, and arms … and the third in August 1966 in the South China sea, when he was on board a coast guard cutter mistakenly strafed by the US Air Force which left Tim adrift at sea badly wounded. Lastly, in April 1969 Tim jumped out of a helicopter to help load wounded soldiers just as a sergeant stepped on a nearby mine, sending a 2-inch piece of shrapnel into Tim’s head. Tim’s multiple injuries led his colleagues in the field to joke that he would never make it to the age of 23.
Tim made it to yesterday aged 78 ….
NB. For All interested … have found the entire series of “Frankie’s House” made in 1992 (all four episodes at around the two hundred minute mark) … a TV series based (pretty loosely) on the early photojournalism career of Tim in Vietnam. Can be found on YouTube at … https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMqda4uF4-_4Azl9H-Xy5ES0NrHnbB5bd .) Apparently Tim wasn’t a fan …
Images © Tim Page & Brian Cassey