Matthew keeps big build in focus

“I DIDN’T start out to do this,” says Matthew Bissett, who’d been trained as a chef.

“That was the job, there in the kitchen, nothing like where we are now,” he reflects. “Honestly, photography was a kind of a personal thing, a side interest.”

But now, six months later, Matthew’s photographs as well as his videos and photogrammetry are part of the official record of the new bridge at Bridgewater.

The largest infrastructure project in Tasmania’s history, this will be the sixth bridge to occupy the site.

Although Matthew grew up on the North-West Coast, family visits brought him south many times as a kid, and he eventually settled in Bridgewater.

The work as a chef kept him busy “too busy” he says now but he found himself drawn out of the kitchen and into the open air.

Living locally, he was attracted to the long expanses and lattice
steel framing of the old bridge. And he’d bring an inexpensive digital camera along for the ride.

“Look over there,” he says, indicating the lift- span, now defunct multiple rail lines and long-obsolete sections of earlier bridges. “And the river and the water beyond.

“I would come to the water usually after work just to shoot pictures for myself, add them to my portfolio and website.”

Out of the blue, McConnell Dowell, the primary contractor for the new bridge, got him on the phone.

“We’ve seen some of your stuff on Facebook,” they said. “Can we talk about some work for us?”

“They were looking for someone locally. We talked about what they were planning, what they needed, and so I positioned my business and myself to deliver what they wanted,” he says.

“I put down my knife for the last time, and picked up the camera as a professional.”

Matthew is one of hundreds of Tasmanian contractors, from single operators and companies with multiple employees, who are bringing their skills and experience to the project over the next two years.

Today, what Matthew uses is highly sophisticated: a drone with high-res camera, a separate guidance system for long-range flights and a controller with video screen.

Then there’s his photogrammetry work, also for McConnell Dowell. Photogrammetry uses photographic images as a way to record, measure and interpret the natural and built environment.

His life is full: he has a partner, Emma, along with one-year-old Maurice and 10-year-old step-daughter Aleah. When time allows, he’ll take a camera to Baskerville for the cars or the powerboat races at Granton.

“This is the best gig,” he tells me.

“I live literally two minutes away from the bridge. It’s like working from home and on site at the same time.”