War photographer Tim Page on Cambodia, working with Hunter S. Thompson, and his travel must-haves
On the Bayon
A portmanteau of the word 'aman' (derived from the Sanskrit word for peace) and 'apsara' (an ancient hindu word describing a heavenly nymph), Amansara is every inch the tranquil abode and resort of choice for the well-heeled visitor to Siem Reap. For veteran war photographer Tim Page, who has witnessed first-hand over three decades of conflict across the Indochina region, peace and tranquility are hardly notions he associates with Cambodia.
While most of us would have seen Tim's iconic photos gracing the pages of renowned publications the world over, fewer have had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the man himself. Guests staying at Amansara, however, were recently given the opportunity to hear him speak at a talk held in conjuction with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. Below, the 72-year-old photographer lets us in on what it was like to tag-team with the late Hunter S. Thompson, Siem Reap before the tourist boom, and the items he never leaves home without.
Tell us about your earliest memory of Cambodia.
It'll have to be my time spent at the Angkor in 1964. Apart from my friend and I, there was nobody at the temples at all. Well, there were two Austrians who showed up later on bicycles. I slept out at the Bayon, with no one around. It's a very special memory as it is impossible to have that solitary experience now.
RESILIENCE, a joint photo exhibition between yourself and photographers John Rodsted and George Nickles highlights how Cambodia is rebuilding itself after decades of conflict. What strikes you most about the people in Cambodia?
Their resilience and their smiles. The Cambodian people went through an extraordinary period during Pol Pot's time. It's totally mind-bending for me to even try and understand what that must have been like. I absolutely admire them and love the country.
You spent five months in 2009 as the Photographic Peace Ambassador for the UN in Afghanistan. Which person—living or dead—do you consider to be a true icon of peace?
I would consider Ghandi to be a true icon of peace.
You worked extensively with Hunter S. Thompson while he was filing for Rolling Stone magazine. What was it like working with him? Tell us about a memorable moment you experienced together.
Well, for starters, Hunter was not a fan of Richard Nixon. He thought Nixon was a criminal. I remember sitting with him and Bill Cardoso in Los Angeles, watching Nixon being impeached after Watergate. Bill was the editor of The Boston Globe and came up with the word 'gonzo' (a corruption of the word 'gonzeaux', of French Canadian extract, meaning shining path) to describe Hunter.
What are some travel essentials you never leave home without?
Camera, notebook, and something to read.
What are you reading right now?
Bangkok Asset by John Burdett and Indonesia Etc by Elizabeth Pisani.
What's keeping you busy these days?
I am editing and going through my archive of nearly a million images with a view to selling the lot. I live in Brisbane and nearly lost the lot during the dreadful flood in 2011. I would like to see the archive remain in Australia. At the same time, I am staging exhibitions of my work that has never been seen before.
At the moment, I am working on an exhibition of black and white photos taken across America in 1967 as well as another project called 'NAM - CONTACT' — a book cum exhibition featuring black and white contact sheets that encapsulate my time in Vietnam.
RESILIENCE, a photography exhibition featuring Tim Page's work, is currently showing at the Constable Gallery at Large in Siem Reap, Cambodia.