Centrefold: In the line of fire: Vietnam photographer recalls life during wartime

You'll probably have heard of Tim Page: he was the Vietnam war photographer crazy enough to work in the battle zones everyone else drew the line at. The photograph on the right was taken in 1966 in Bongson, Central Vietnam, a couple of years short of full-blown warfare - when some 30,000 Korean troops had invaded the country (by 1968 there were 50,000). The image shows a Vietnamese woman trying to distract a Korean soldier from the direction her husband has taken. The picture assumes greater drama, and poignancy, when you hear Page's account of the sequence of events: 'They beat her up anyway, then caught up with her husband, dragged him back and executed him.' Strong stuff - the more so when you remember that Page kept on snapping until the soldiers turned on him too. But hardly surprising when you hear his life story.

Page had left England, aged 16, following a motorcycle accident in which he lost seven pints of blood and 'basically flipped my mind'. The accident, he says, 'was a life-changing experience which set me on the rocky road to virtual self-destruction'. He bummed around the world for a while, then arrived in Vientiane, Laos, in 1964, where a chance encounter with a UPI photographer led to him taking over the reins for six weeks.

Page started as he meant to go on: riding his motorbike through war-torn Vientiane, across the border - and constant gunfire - into Thailand to deliver his first consignment of film. The risk (the first of many) paid off: the photographs were sold to Life magazine who then asked him to go to Vietnam. Four hellish years later he'd been injured five times and twice declared dead on arrival at hospital.

He's philosophical now: 'War is hell,' he says, 'it's the biggest surf you can ride and once you're up there, you can't get off.' Nowadays he photographs the beauty of Vietnam, and he's just back from Cambodia - 'looking for the rarest cow in the planet. Didn't find it though.' Still crazy after all these years.

Tim Page will talk about his Vietnam photographs, with slides, 8pm tonight, in the Great Hall, Catford Arts Festival, St Dunstan's College, Stanstead Rd, Catford SE6 (081-690 1274)

(Photograph omitted)

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