The Bee Project:
I approached The Bee Project with curiosity and fear. The purpose of this project was to get over my fear of bees. When I was 13, I nearly died of an allergic reaction to a bee sting. I had been stung by bees prior to this, but I never reacted - this made the experience traumatic. Since then, I have gone through five years of desensitization shots (weekly or bi-weekly). There is a 90% chance that I am not allergic anymore, but I have not been stung since.
When I started thinking about this project, I originally wanted to just photograph bees on flowers. I thought to myself, “C’mon, Meg. Woman up!” I decided to contact my english professor to see if she knew anyone involved with bees. Sure enough, she connected me with Jennifer Berry (http://www.jennifer-berrybees.com/). I decided that I wanted to photograph hundreds of bees in their natural habitat - the hive. I took a ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito, with my six rolls of 35mm black and white film. Jennifer was an amazing teacher, she showed me the ropes of beekeeping. Throughout this project, I became more and more comfortable being around the bees. She taught me about the body language of the bees. If they are trying to be aggressive, they will fly back and forth in front of your face, aggressively. This serves as a warning to humans, “Back off or I will sting you!” If the bees are just flying around, searching for flowers, they will fly around you in a relaxed way.
Photography allowed me to have a barrier between me and my only fear. By being behind the camera, I felt safer around the bees. I also felt like my presence among them had a purpose. The most challenging part of this experience was the fact that we were only wearing hats, not even gloves, and the fact that I had to load and unload rolls of film from my camera while surrounded by bees. It was also challenging to not know how the film negatives would turn out until I developed them in the darkroom. I visited the hives during the week of the Northern California campfire fire. The air quality was horrible, so we both had to wear masks the whole time. By photographing bees, I have connected bees with beauty and peace. I can safely say that I am no longer afraid of bees. I visited the hives about a month ago, and since then, whenever I see bees I feel relaxed, and sometimes even joyous. I hope to expand on this project in the future, eventually involving the bees on me. Stay tuned.