Marvin Farkas is a natural at telling stories. That's how, despite having no experience or training, he landed a job as a sub-editor at the Tiger Standard (now The Standard) in 1954: he told its then editor-in-chief, Leslie Sung, that he had a journalism degree from Stanford University. Farkas was never found out and went on to develop a career as a cameraman, covering conflicts in Asia. He photographed the 1956 riots in Sham Shui Po, when Kuomintang supporters clashed with communist sympathisers in a show of force during the Double Tenth celebrations, and fierce fighting in the Vietnam war, and filmed reports from the 1971 India-Pakistan war, which led to the founding of Bangladesh. In later years, he switched to commercial photography and filmmaking, and eventually launched his own studio. Now 83, Farkas is still hard at work, polishing seven as yet unpublished books that record a lifetime spent watching the end of colonialism in Asia and its peoples' struggles for independence. Like many young expatriates, Farkas came in search of adventure. He first saw Hong Kong in 1946 as a sailor in the US Navy and immediately fell in love with the city. 'Hong Kong was so beautiful - lots of stucco houses up on the hills, junks, sampans, rickshaws,' he recalls. 'There were about 15,000 rickshaws on the streets back then. I thought it was a very quaint place and knew I wanted to live there.' So when he found himself at a loose end after a brief, unsatisfactory stint as a Broadway actor, Farkas, then 27, sold the car his father had given him and bought a passage on a cargo vessel bound for Hong Kong. There was little money left over, but Farkas, who has never been short of confidence, headed to the Foreign Correspondents' Club when he arrived. The timing was fortunate. Someone had just moved out of the club, which then occupied a mansion at 41a Conduit Road, so he had a sea-view room for HK$400 a month. Farkas also signed up as a member; he is listed as '004' on the FCC's register, making him the longest-serving member of the 60-year-old institution. 'Everything was free back then,' he says. 'We had free steaks and dances on the lawn every night.' Fellow FCC member Graham Jenkins, who later founded short-lived local tabloid The Star, advised Farkas to call on all the English-language newspapers, which was how he charmed Sung into giving him his first taste of the newsroom. Farkas' passion, however, lay in photography and he supplemented his meagre sub-editor's income of HK$350 a month with picture assignments for news services such as United Press International and the Canadian Broadcasting Centre (CBC). He learned everything he knows about journalism on the job, he says. One of Farkas' first lessons was on the need for preparation and backup. In Jakarta in 1955 to film an interview with Chinese premier Zhou Enlai, who was attending the Bandung Conference, he found himself in a jam - his camera seized up as Zhou and the correspondent were talking. Farkas made his excuses and inserted a new magazine of film but that failed, too. He had no idea how to fix the problem, so a replacement camera had to found quickly. His local fixer knew of only one place in town stocking film cameras, which luckily carried the obscure brand that Farkas knew how to operate. The American returned to the interview room 45 minutes later with an enormous model that had to be carried by three men - and was greatly relieved to find the Chinese premier still waiting. 'He was just joking around with the correspondent - Zhou was a really nice guy,' he says. By then, Farkas was in no state to pay attention to what the premier was saying. 'I was just focusing on the camera and the mics. Boy, I was really sweating.' On another assignment for the CBC, Farkas returned to Indonesia with correspondent Bill Stevenson the following year to interview President Sukarno, who was fending off attempted coups. They wound up in a discussion with Indonesia's flamboyant first president about miniskirts. Following a tip-off, the pair traced Sukarno to one of his favourite bars, at the Hanuman Hotel in Surabaya. As luck would have it, the president was there - surrounded by armed guards. Sukarno was in a T-shirt and the felt hat he always wore, so they went over and asked if they could interview him, Farkas recalls. 'And he said, 'Well, I can't. The two guys sitting at the next table are listening to our conversation. But if you'd like to talk women, that's okay.'' So for the next hour, the three men talked about women - and miniskirts. Sukarno, apparently, was against women wearing them because they showed too much skin. 'He said Indonesian girls are very modest and respectable and they would never appear in public in such outrageous clothing,' Farkas says. Farkas had a few close shaves covering the war in Indochina. On an assignment in Cambodia in the 1970s, he convinced his crew to go closer to the front line for a better shot of the fighting between communist guerillas and the US-backed forces. He was leading his crew in one direction when he heard someone yell: 'You're walking the wrong way! You're walking into the enemy!' Farkas recalls the encounter with a laugh. 'I was very lucky. We took a lot of chances, but they all paid off. I saw guys get killed but I never thought it would happen to me.' As regional conflict subsided in the 1980s, Farkas set up his own studio, taking on a range of photography assignments. One week it would be news photos of Vietnamese boat people, the next he would be shooting portraits of actor Jack Palance. Farkas also shot some of the earliest Cathay Pacific ads - one of which recently fetched HK$4,000 at the Picture This gallery. Many respected photojournalists worked for Farkas during that time, including Robin Moyer, Lincoln Potter and Mark Erder, who later founded the production company Asia Pacific Vision. 'Marvin was a great storyteller and had terrific tales of his early years in Hong Kong and Vietnam,' Erder says. 'I kept thinking he'd be a great subject for a film.' Erder eventually put his ideas into action when making Of All the Gin Joints, a documentary for the BBC about foreign correspondents in Asia, with Farkas as one of the main subjects. 'True to form, he had some of the most poignant and humorous moments in the documentary,' Erder says. Businessman and literary translator Martin Merz, who has known Farkas for 15 years, says his friend always had a new story to share when, for nearly a decade, they would power walk up The Peak three times a week. 'Marvin never drank and never smoked, but he made up for these two vices in women,' Merz says. 'He eventually wrote a juicy novel about his love affairs.' Farkas, who has married three times, has yet to find the right publisher, but he does not appear to be in any great hurry. He is still swapping stories at the FCC.