The Digital Journalist
Separations of Neil
September 2005

by Tim Page

It must have been in the foyer/bar/restaurant of The Constellation Hotel on Samsen Thai Boulevard that runs towards Wattay Airport in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

It must have been before lunch since I had a demi-pension, a regular three-course meal at the venue in town. A new cheerful bloke was there with the regular lunchtime o'booze stringers. Tousled, blond, almost baby-like. "G'day" and that strine twang and a firm handshake. "I'm Neil, ABC outta Singapore." Beers were consumed in the deck chair lounges on the monsoon ditch side of the patio.

Days later he collared me for a beer, his Filmo on the table; I had just finished my U.S.AID day. He'd caught a social problem, one of the local varieties that reoccurred since the local ladies had a solution by chewing 'no sweat pills' – negating all medication. I had gone past the 4th cycle and a French cartoonist had imported 'the cure.' Myth now has it that I sold the pharma off a poncho in the Vientiane evening market, clad in a bowler hat.

Neil always paid for the first meal; after that whenever we met, I always had a carton of Marlboros for him – remember he never smoked.

Strange degrees of separation. Ten years later the now-love in my life meets Neil at the same piece of nostalgia, the Constellation. Laos is about to fall to the communists. The war is almost over.

Fast forward another decade and I'm staying at Neil's putting together new sorties to Vietnam 10 years after liberation. Neil is engineering peace and media breakthroughs. It is the start of 'Doi Moi' – opening. Neil is murdered a year later along with his soundman, Bill Latch.

Another decade passes. We return to Bangkok to thrash out another Indochina quest. We end up with Neil's tapes, including the tape from the camera that filmed his own death. The tapes had been ditched, like Sean Flynn's stuff, in New York. Neil's tapes were rescued by that great Kiwi cameraman, Derek Williams.

The tape has become a virtual shrine in our Windsor home. Even dug up these wacky frames of you and us, then and now.

Cheers, mate.

© Tim Page

Tim Page is a photographer, journalist and author of several books, including "Page After Page: Memoirs of a War-Torn Photographer"; "Tim Page's Nam"; and co-editor, with Horst Faas, of "Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Indochina and Vietnam." His return to Cambodia after the war led him to found the Indochina Media Memorial Foundation in 1994, which was the genesis of "Requiem." He is the winner of countless honors, including the 1997 Robert Capa Gold Medal Award.