Mos Espa

An image from Rä di Martino’s "Every World’s A Stage" set among the remnants of films sets used in Star Wars.

Mos Espa

The second half of 1 diptych from "Every World’s A Stage."

Mos Espa

The photo set consists of 3 diptychs, with 2 black-and-white anagogic prints depicting the same subject but from different angles.

Mos Espa

From "Every World’s A Stage"

The Lars Homestead

From Rä di Martino’s "No More Stars," which documents the ruins of Luke Skywalker’s home on the fictional planet Tatooine.

The Lars Homestead

The sets were abandoned after filming wrapped. Located near Tozeur in central Tunisia, near Algeria, the alien structures are virtually unknown by locals, and some can only be found with coordinates.

The Lars Homestead

Di Martino spotted the sets in the Tunisian desert while scanning Google Earth.

The Lars Homestead

She traveled to the site and documented what had happened to the homestead in Luke’s absence.

The Lars Homestead

Di Martino calls the sets "strange archeological sites," fortuitously preserved by sand and a hot, arid climate.

The Lars Homestead

"No More Stars."

Co.Design

A Photographer Rediscovers The Crumbling Remains Of Tatooine

A photographer finds abandoned sets used in the Star Wars films crumbling in the desert.

In Star Wars (or Episode IV if you want to be like that), Luke Skywalker spends the first 15 minutes whining about his misfortune for having been born on Tatooine. He can’t go to Beggar’s Canyon to shoot womp rats with pals because he has to work his uncle’s moisture farm. Then he has to clean the new droids before suffering through a perfunctory family meal that ends in a storm-out, his ego bruised and dreams momentarily crushed.

Of course, fate (or destiny, in Lucas’s lexicon) would provide Luke with an escape. The cost would be tragic, and the 17-year old Jedi-to-be would never see his home again. Neither would the filmmakers. Lucas and his crew left the Lars Homestead set to rot after filming wrapped more than 35 years ago. In that time, the domed shell of the homestead sat unprotected from the desert winds, its location known to only a few locals. That is, until recently, when Luke’s erstwhile home was rediscovered by New York-based photographer Rä di Martino.

She found it by accident, she tells Co.Design. A few years ago, when Di Martino was working on a project on the Chott El Jerid, a salt lake in Tunisia, she was scanning the site on Google Earth. "I saw a tourist photo on Google Earth of a ruin used for the Star Wars films that was attached to the location." She tracked the structure to somewhere near Tozeur, an oasis city in the country’s central region close to the Algerian border.

Tozeur and the surrounding region, it turns out, have served as the backdrop to many Hollywood’s memorable epics, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, another Lucas romp, and The English Patient. Yet, there’s little glamour to be excavated at these abandoned sites. They sit in perfect stillness, at the crest of the Sahara Desert, eaten away by dust and sand.

When she traveled to Tunisia in September 2010, Di Martino had only a printout of a satellite image with imprecise markers indicating where the mysterious ruin was supposed to be. Upon arriving, however, she found it nearly impossible to track it down. "I ended up having to ask some frontier guards close by [in Tozeur] and showed them pictures of the site." Luckily, one of the guards recognized it and delivered her to the doorstep of the Lars Homestead.

Di Martino found the fictional birthplace of the Rebellion’s savior in tatters. She preserved Luke’s humble digs for posterity in a series of photographs entitled "No More Stars." Di Martino discovered several more Star Wars sets, which she documented in "Every World’s a Stage." In the latter, Di Martino’s lens finds a nomad in the rubble of Mos Espa, a circle of mud-hewn habitations—really, cement-covered MDF—whose walls are festooned with coiled aluminum probosces signifying high-tech gadgetry. Passing through these non-ruins, di Martino says, was surprisingly moving. These places "have existed only in our imaginations for so long for a lot of us," yet here they were, "only now biologically decayed."

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34 Comments

  • SierraNevada

    These photos are LAME! No offense, but I assume that's what happens when a city dwelling photographer tries to take pictures of landscape (Couldn't figure out where she's going even though she "researched" the destination? Please, Di Martino stick to sidewalks and man-made trails before you "127 Hours" yourself). 
    Any better ones out there of the same area? I don't need Ansel Adams shit, I just want to use my imagination to explore this area. And I've seen "abandoned" landscape photos of just scraps of tin that are more interesting than what should be the most interesting abandoned site ever (not included Cherynobyl). 

  • Jason B. Standing

    Wow... it was only a year ago - as I was recently reading - that a group of "passionate fans" embarked on a restoration project of that very site: http://www.savelars.com/

    Damn those harsh Tatooine winters. 

  • Newemperorsclothes

    There is something weird or made up about this article, because i've been to part of the tatooine set in Tunisia and it was in Matmata.  So... is someone faking this or does there happen to be some of the set in Tozeur... which is possible.

  • Switchbaby

    HA.  Done first and done better by those before.  Wonder what else di Martino is going to "discover"?  Maybe pyramids in Egypt or something?

  • Billmatteson

    She's not exactly the first. The guy who really "rediscovered" those
    locations was David West Reynolds back in 1995. I remember reading about it in issue #25 of "Star Wars Insider" and was how I knew to go
    there myself in 2007.Most of the locals are familiar with it. (The location of the "Dune Sea" is right across the highway, by the way.)
    What she thinks is from 1976, is actually from filming of Episode II in 2000. These sets don't hold up that well, they weren't meant to after all.
    I read that a guy went back recently and fixed the homestead set with donated funds, though - so it should be looking pretty good for future visitors.

  • Prometheus

    How can she 'rediscover' it when it's on Google Maps and was visited by a tourist earlier and photographed by them? The headline should truthfully read 'photographer visits' if you were being honest and not sensationalising.

  • $2353470

    Four hundred years from now those ruins will be really screwing with some archaeologists.

  • Doug

    The article is just a plot to sell her "documentary".

    This has been a minor tourist attraction, as shown in this photo: 
    http://www.panoramio.com/photo...
    Note that this photo was uploaded to panoramio.com in 2007.

    To claim that she rediscovered the set is no more true than I claim to have rediscovered New York city in 1990, just because I went there then and snapped a few photos.

  • Bill Matteson

    She's not exactly the first. The guy who really rediscovered those
    locations was David West Reynolds back in 1995.
    http://www.starwarslocations.c...
    It's how I knew to go
    there myself in 2007.
    And  what she thinks is from 1976, is of course from filming in 1997 and 2000.
    Recently, a guy even went back and fixed the homestead set up with donated funds.

    Nice photos, but I'm afraid she should have done some reading beforehand.
     

  • Throtol

    I remember seeing the site from about one mile of so away in 1987 when visiting Tunisia.  Most of the locals and bus drivers know where the site is located.  

  • mary ann

    Actually a little p.o'd that these sets were left behind as trash. Continuing the negative image of Americans. Of course now they are generating income for locals as tourist destinations but the site should have been left as it was found. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.

  • Virgil Cole

     Yeah, forget the money  that was inevitably  brought into the region during the filming of one of the most famous films in history by those darned Americans.

    I don't know if you're an American or not, but if so, you should really work on not feeling guilty for things you had nothing to do with, and things that are not really a "thing".

  • cassette_walkman

    Oh doo love how taking tourist photos is 'documenting'. It makes it sooo authentic dahhling.