Page After Page - Tim Page by Usamah Khan

Getting into photography has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling endeavours I've undertaken in the last few years. When I first had the idea, this website was actually just supposed to be a platform share my photos. Tying in other interests of my life was an afterthought - albeit, a good decision that I'm happy with. Exploring photography has been a central part of my free time and conversation for the last while and by doing so, I've exposed myself to so much and learnt about a wide range of subjects outside my normal vision and comfort zone. Finding shots I like and subsequently discovering new and old photographers often leads me to research their lives to better understand their vision and creative raison d'être.

One day looking at some powerful shots from the Vietnam War era, I discovered Tim Page and his photography. I was pretty taken aback by the rawness and power of the images he captured during that time. I began exploring more, researching his life and very quickly found he had done a decent amount of writing as well. I started reading an article he wrote and..well he definitely has a way with words and some of the most outrageous stories to share. I was hooked on his every word. He mentioned his autobiography - Page After Page: Memoirs of a War-Torn Photographer and so after a few months of searching and trying to find a copy, I finally found one. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. 

Tim Page (far right) in the field

Tim Page (far right) in the field

Page begins by describing his life from birth, his childhood and really begins his story when at the age of fifteen he decided to leave his home in England and travel overland to Australia. The stories of the places he goes and the people he encounters on the way are almost unbelievable. He describes everything in such detail, down to creases on the face of the people he met for an hour on a warm night in the Iranian desert years ago. From France, Italy, Turkey to when he eventually ran out of money and settled in Laos you get the story of the man and how he rose to be such a prominent and well respected war photographer and journalist. How did he do all this? Well from the way he puts it, he just tried and did everything that came his way.

The meat of the book focuses on his life in Vietnam, the people he met there and his stories from the field. All throughout you get a a real sense of what the vibe was in the 60s, what rock 'n roll really meant and what that lifestyle entailed.

Something I didn't expect, and what ended up being the most striking aspect of the book, was the first hand look into what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is actually like and how it affects people. During that period, the last time the press was truly "free" to report in conflict zones, the journalists and photographers, while not drafted themselves, were in fact quasi-soldiers with ranks and a basic training. If push came to shove, they'd have to pick up a rifle and fire back with the rest of the soldiers. This happened for Page. Coupling this with the positions he put himself in to get a good shot and story certainly seemed intense enough to leave a lasting impact. Also he almost died..twice. After both times he went back out to the field. This disregard/weird appreciation for life is something thats so unnerving..but enviable.

Reading this book at any other time in my life probably wouldn't have had the same effect. Getting older, and learning how putting yourself in situations wildly outside of your comfort zone and just doing is the best way to grow, I appreciated his story. How every job he took, every person he met and every place we went added up to who he became. It's easy to have an experience, but to learn from it and have it add to your life is something you have to be conscious about, something you have to let happen. I think thats why I think about his story a lot, and think of it fondly as one of the books things I read last year.

Page makes note of a lot of friends he made. Colleagues in the war, friends and mentors who all have contributed notable works in the this field. Some that I've explored in the months since I finished Page after Page. It's a great starting point for anyone wanting to know a bit more about the this period in time. Not the history and timeline of events, but what was happening to the people and culture while history was unfolding.

My favourite passage in the book is his ending

...with no ifs and buts.

We are what we think having become what we thought
Like the wheel that follows the cart puling the ox
Sorrow follows an evil thought
And joy follows a pure thought
Like a shadow faithfully tailing a man
We are what we think having become what we thought