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Veteran photog reflects on summit

Photo by: Michael Hayes

Veteran photographer Paul Tedjasurya recalls that Norodom Sihanouk’s wife was beautiful back in 1955.

Tucked away on a quiet lane in labyrinthine south Bandung where modest homes have neatly manicured lawns the size of king-sized beds, veteran photographer Paul Tedjasurya recalls a lifetime full of memorable images.

Having spent 57 years as a full-time photographer, Tedjasurya, now 78 and retired, was literally on the front lines of history back in 1955.

As a young 25-year-old, who had decided to spend his career as a photographer only four years previously, he was one of a few Bandung-based freelancers on hand for the historic Asia-Africa conference.

"I took all the leaders' pictures ... Nehru, Chou En-Lai, Sihanouk," says Tedjasurya, recalling that the delegation heads walked from the Hotel Savoy Homann to the conference centre only a few blocks away, giving the press an opportunity get some good shots.

"Sukarno was a great man ... he had great charisma," he recalls when describing the photo he took of the Indonesian president.

Back then, before television was available, newspapers didn't have full-time photographers, says Tedjasurya. "Before I took a photo I had to think, ‘Is this a good photo or not?' because I had to sell it to a newspaper. Film was expensive ... not like now with digital when you can take hundreds."    

In 2005, at celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Bandung Conference, Tedjasurya was feted as the only surviving Indonesian photographer to attend the event.  

Interviewed by the Indonesian press, one of his memories became a headline for an article on his reflections. It reads:  Istri Norodom Sihanouk cantik  (Norodom Sihanouk's wife is beautiful).

He showed this reporter a copy of the article and then helped him figure out how to work his new camera to get a decent image. "No, no, use this function, you'll get a better picture in this light," he explained patiently to cub photographer Hayes with a smile.    

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