JOHN ALEXANDER POPE
Director at Smithsonian Institut
When I brought my tiger cub back to the Grand Hotel in Angkor, he graciously let himself be fussed over by a group of Americans.
I later discovered that one of the Americans was John Alexander Pope, exhibitions director at the famous Smithsonian Institution in Washington, a sort of private Louvre, which drew crowds from all over the world. Mr Pope asked to meet me because he wanted to know how I had found Bijou in the jungle. While he was there he looked at the unpublished photos of Cambodia and Vietnam that were yellowing in my drawers and was immediately enthusiatic.
He decided on the spot to show them at the Smithsonian Institution.
It took him two years to mount the exhibition but it was much larger than initially planned. It turned into a travelling show which toured museums in the United States for several years. Faces of Vietnam gave the Americans a glimpse of Indochina and its brilliant civilisations that they had not seen before and they loved it.
The exhibition was divided into two parts, one showed my photos and the other, landscapes by young artists, such as Rembrandt, Giorgione, Monet, David, and the Douanier Rousseau. My photos held their own. Nobody knew that the exhibition would never have happened if Bijou had not taken a nap on the terrace of the Grand Hotel in Angkor.