Apocalypse Now is the war film that I must have seen dozens of times. A few times from beginning to end in the cinema and sometimes also in pieces and parts, at home or while traveling in Asia. Together with Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, The Deerhunter, and of course Good Morning Vietnam!
Still, for me Apocalypse Now stood out above the mentioned Vietnam war films because of the cinematography, the spectacle, and the end scene with Marlon Brando.
A number of years ago I was working on a photo series in Cambodia when I came across the legendary war photographer in Tim Page in Cambodia and understood in an interview from him that Tim Page had actually acted as a kind of role model to be played by the actor Dennis Hopper in his role as a photographer. Hopper and director Copolla had used Michael Herr’s book ‘Dispatches’ for inspiration to write his script ‘The Heart of Darkness’ that became eventually ‘Apocalypse Now’.
The title of my article in Aktueel was headlined; “The crazy photographer from Apocalypse Now is still alive!”
He was brilliantly portrayed by Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now as the drug-crazed acid dropping photographer. A story that was a hit with me.
Until a year ago I came across a series of photos at an online auction offering Nikon photo cameras that the stills photographer Chas Gerretsen had used to take on the set during the shooting for the film Apocalypse Now.
That Photographer was Chas Gerretsen, and from his last name I could tell that he was Dutch or American of Dutch descent. Interesting!
The photo of Dennis Hopper hung with Chas Gerretsen his Nikon cameras in ‘action’ among the natives stands out clearly in my mind and has now become an iconic film photo.
Let that photo be taken by Chas Gerretsen!
A quick search on social media and Chas was still very much alive and what was even nicer, Chas is from Groningen, the city where I have lived since 2022, after the Covid misery and ten years of Phnom Penh Cambodia.
An autobiography has been made about his life and I picked up that book at the great library and multimedia institution in Groningen, the Forum.
A library employee said that Chas Gerretsen would have an extensive exhibition in the Forum in October 2023. What a coincident!
I approached Chas Gerretsen for an interview in October, but due to other commitments, I went to Cambodia. Our personal meeting and portrait photo session with Chas unfortunately did not take place.
We are now in December 2023 and I thought it would be nice to show some highlights from the impressive photo exhibition.
My main focus here was on his work for Apocalypse Now and some earlier photos taken by Chas in 1971 before the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia between 1974-1979. Some portraits at Angkor Wat and Siem Reap. Images published in newspapers around the world.
These photos are only reproductions taken with my smartphone under poor lighting conditions for photography. The exhibition is impressive and also covers Chas’s childhood years in his hometown of Groningen.
But also his impressive and historical photography from Chile by Chas during Pinochet’s takeover.
For anyone interested in photography and Apocalypse Now, I recommend visiting this exhibition which runs until till March 17, 2024