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Image credit: Tim Page

On Wednesday, 24 August 2022, Tim Page passed away at his home in NSW. He was 78 years old.  

“Free spirit”, “renegade”, “irreverent”, “ambitious”, “fearless”, “indescribable”. These are just a few ways people have spoken about Tim Page and his astounding courage when faced with some of history’s most devastating conflicts. His risk-taking was iconic, so much so that Page served as the inspiration for the photographer character in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now, portrayed famously by Dennis Hopper.

Image credit: Tim Page, Nam Contact

Tim’s photographs of the Vietnam War defined how we think and remember the conflict; they gave a face to the futile violence and ultimately swayed public opinion. Tim was relentless in his ambition to capture the war in stark clarity, planting himself on the front lines and often paying the price. He was wounded four times, once by friendly fire, and the last time, he was helping load a wounded soldier onto a helicopter when the person next to him stepped on a landmine. The doctor pronounced him dead twice and revived him twice – it was just like Tim to do the unexpected. He required extensive neuro-surgery and spent most of the seventies in recovery.  

Image credit: Tim Page, Nam Contact

Despite his reputation as a fearless renegade – known to whoop as helicopters took off and speed into the jungle on his motorbike at the sound of gunfire – Tim Page understood the tragedy that is war, and his photographs were an arresting form of visual protest. As Page said, “any war picture is an antiwar picture”. Page believed in the power of a photograph and employed that power again and again until we all just wanted to look away – but Tim wouldn’t allow that. Tim never pretended to be an objective eyepiece; he had a personal stake in the photos he took which added alarming urgency to each shot. Tim lost friends and parts of himself in that war, and you can feel the remnants of that loss in every image, digging in like pieces of shrapnel.  

Image credit: Tim Page, Nam Contact

We were lucky enough to host Tim’s exhibition Nam Contact at Head On Photo Festival in 2020. While the Vietnam War may feel historical, looking at Tim’s photographs makes the passing of time feel irrelevant. Tim Page was also included in our exhibition and photobook Paper Tigers (2020), celebrating Australia’s 60 most iconic photojournalists. Tim Page redefined what a photojournalist could and should be; we and the rest of the Paper Tigers community will remember him for that and so much more.  

Thanks, Tim. 

Image credit: Stephen Dupont, The ghost from the past (portrait of Tim Page), Head On Photo Awards 2014

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Image detail: Gary Ramage