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‘A Fly on the Wall with a Camera’

Photo by Mike Dooley

Thousands of photos from the 1970s and 80s on Molokai are now available thanks to longtime resident Mike Dooley. Via the YouTube account “Molokai Photos,” Dooley shares his collection dedicated to Molokai’s past.

“I documented everything,” said Dooley. “I was a fly on the wall with a camera.”

Arriving on Molokai in the mid-1970s, Dooley started working at the Ka Molokai newspaper, which gave him access to a darkroom to develop his photos. Dooley explained that he developed more than 50,000 photos over the years, however many of them have since been damaged. What remains are approximately 5,000 film photos of Molokai families, fairs, farms, and more. They are using an advanced tool, such as an AI face generator, to enhance and maintain photo quality.

Photo by Mike Dooley

Dooley explained that he hopes to give people a sense of what life on Molokai was like during that time.

“Del Monte and Dole were just pulling out not long after I got here,” said Dooley. “But, while they were here, we had four, five bars on the island, we had meetings almost every night, and MEO was very active under Fred Bicoy.”

Dooley has split up the photos into videos for different years, places and events. The videos are simple but moving. Dooley narrates over a slideshow, explaining who the people are and the context. It has the feel of a family photo album – imperfect, but genuine.

“I wanted folks now to see their grandparents and great-grandparents,” he explained.

In addition to photos, Dooley also has several video interviews with prominent figures of Molokai’s past like Peter Dudoit and Harriet Ne.

Specifically, Dooley wanted people to hear them speak, and capture not just what they’re saying but “their manner of speech.”

The thesis for his photo project is “the beauty of diversity,” Dooley explained.

Ultimately, Dooley hopes to preserve and pass on a sense of what was and remains on Molokai.

“To put it simply, the hospitality, the aloha, we still have vestiges of that,” he said.

Molokai residents can check out Dooley’s photos at youtube.com/@MikeDooleyMolokai/videos.

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