In 1983, when I was living in London, I bought Tim Page’s book, NAM.
I had watched a BBC documentary about the Vietnam war photographer, who had just published a book, called NAM, of some of his photos from that war. It became one of my sources of inspiration on how to visualize even the most gruesome of moments that record history, and humanity. One of the photos that had made an impression on me was that of a soldier in an armored vehicle with a pink umbrella, and the word “HIPPIE” written on his helmet.
Later that year I found myself in Washington DC the week the Vietnam Memorial was opened to the public in November 1983. As I stood at the lowest point of the giant V-shaped scar on the grounds north of the Reflecting Pool, with the names of the dead etched on the polished black walls on either side of me, I noticed this lady, in a black skirt and white blouse and white gloves, holding a pink umbrella over her shoulder, her back turned to the wall, facing towards the afternoon sun. Immediately Tim Page’s photo came to me. I pushed and shoved to position myself and snapped the shot in a matter of seconds. After I had lowered my camera I noticed the reflections on the wall of the passers-by walking away, and the shadows of those standing off frame stretching on the ground and onto the wall. Also, I wondered whether the name of that soldier in Mr. Page's photo was on that wall...
Twenty six years and a couple of lifetimes after that, one day in 2009, I came across the old Ektachrome slide while sorting through old boxes. I googled Tim Page and found his website. I emailed him the photo explaining it was my tiny homage to his work, shot 26 years earlier. He responded to me.
Mr. Page was gracious to respond. Obviously, I was so glad to hear back from one of my role models… But more than that, a detail about his email had quite an effect on me. I realized that although Mr. Page’s response, written in 2009, had reached a man in his fifties, Mr. Page was responding to that photo taken by a kid in his early twenties starting out in his life and profession. My younger self, still strong inside me, looking ahead in time at me from that day in DC of 1983, felt as if life had drawn yet one more of those full circles.
Thank you, Mr. Page.
>From: Tim Page
>Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 6:54 AM
>To: Dimitris Sivyllis
>Subject: Re: General Enquiry
>thanks very much for your email and thanks for the compliments.
>Tis good to know ones touched some hard core believers out there in life's jungle.
>Good that photos still have a certain power.
>I loved your juxtaposition - great shot, very honoured.
No problems in using my pix providing you put my credit line underneath.
>Good on ya.....