If I was asked what would be my dream photography assignment/project, well what could be more serene than travelling to Tunisia and taking astrophotography over Luke Skywalker’s homestead from the original A New Hope set. Well it seems hardcore Star Wars fan and photojournalist Gary He got that exact assignment for Wired Magazine. He was tasked with photographing a total six film set locations.
This one is truly a ‘bucket list’ shot for any ardent Star Wars fan with a passion for astronomy and photography…especially me!
A beautifully composed ‘pre-sunset’ shot of The Lars homestead exterior dubbed ‘The Igloo’ on the El-Jerid salt flats in Tunisia
Another stunning photography by Gary He, all you have to do with this one is pipe up the John Williams Binary Sunset theme and just imagine two suns, and it’s almost like you’re there.
The Restored Lars Homestead “Igloo” by the Save The Lars Homestead in 2012 Chott El-Jerid Tunisia
The home of Ben Kenobi, now a fisherman’s shack on the island of Djerba – Tunisia
You can almost hear Aunt Beru calling Luke’s name at the Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata, Tunisia. The hotel is a working hotel and was used for the interior scenes of the Lars homestead, also fans can stay the night and sleep in the Lars dining room…hot blue milk for get you off to sleep 🙂
You can book the room by calling Hotel Sidi Driss direct on
Tel (00 216) 75 240 005 (UK International Code in brackets)
To see how big a Star Wars fan Gary He actually is, check out some of his social media posts, especially the one of him packing a Vader and Kylo Ren helmet for his trip, or the one in which he got his Darth Vader lightsabre confiscated at Cairo airport because they thought it was a legit weapon… a true fan!
All Photographs are copyright Gary He ©2015
Extract from the Wired article and further photos from Gary’s visit.
TATOOINE IS MORE than the home of Anakin Skywalker and his son Luke, Jabba the Hutt, Jawas and whatever Watto is. It is a place you can visit, in Tunisia, and a popular destination for hardcore fans like photojournalist Gary He. He was there just last week, photographing six locations featured in the original trilogy and the prequels.
How big a fan is he? Well, let’s just say opening day of The Phantom Menace, He showed up to high school in full-on Darth Maul make up. It’s safe to say he’s obsessed with the films. So the photographer simply had to see the most famous planet in the Star Wars universe. “It’s the first one that you’re introduced to, it has the most screen time, and it’s the hero’s home world, so it’s natural to want to visit that planet,” he says.
Tatooine is the only planet to appear in five of the six films released thus far. It got its name from the Tunisian city of Tatouine, though no filming occurred there. Crews worked in locations around southern Tunisia, and even now you can find iconic spots like Anakin Skywalker’s home, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s hovel, the Lars homestead and the Mos Eisley Cantina. Locations are well-documented online and of course there’s a Google map, so He had little trouble scouting locations after making the 4,000-mile flight from New York.
Aside from the must-have tourist photos, He shot some locations at night to give the scenes some atmosphere. The Lars homestead exterior dome, located in the Chott el Djerid salt flat, was the most remote, and He waited until dusk to get the classic Luke-gazing-into-the-sunset shot. He finished up just before the police ran him off. “Generally, only scum and villainy hang out in the middle of the desert at night,” he says.
Despite frequent tourists, Tunisia isn’t particularly flashy about its Star Wars pit stops. The Hotel Sidi Driss, which provided interior shots of the Lars’ home, has a hodgepodge of pictures and magazines clippings. The photographer found artists selling watercolors for a few dinar at Ksar Ouled Sultane, a granary that subbed as slaves quarters of Mos Espa in The Phantom Menace. When asked, most people said they hadn’t seen any of the films, but many recognized the crazy tourists wearing robes and wielding lightsabers.
The Ong Jemel location is another Mos Espa site where locals try to appeal to passing tourists. A group of people take turns staying there, offering trinkets to sightseers. There’s also a rudimentary, if not entirely correct, display featuring three broomlike stands holding robes, one with a blue lightsaber and the other with a katana. “Let’s be very clear about this,” He says. “Nobody who has ever watched Star Wars would ever attach a ninja sword onto an Obi Wan Kenobi scarecrow.”
Visits have been down amidst fears of terrorism, and some movie locations are looking a bit rough at the edges. Although ardent fans restored the Lars homestead in 2012, others are now decaying or used for other things. That made visiting Tatooine that much more special for He, who felt delighted and overwhelmed with nostalgia. “Imagine being able to walk up to Star Wars, touch it, and even live in it, which you can do for a night at Hotel Sidi Driss,” he says. “That was this trip.”