About a year ago I met an entomologist named Amelie hosting a course on native bees. Since then a little idea had been growing and I reached out to do a collaboration with her.
She is not the image I had of an entomologist. Mine was of an old guy in a bee keepers outfit chasing bugs around a field to kill and mount, not a vibrant young person teaching others how to protect and nurture the insects around. And that’s basically how the images started.
This first image is a personification of me casting off my old ideas. Her emerging from the old bee keepers outfit as her beautiful self like a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis :)
I am currently researching the role of native bees in cities, particularly in community gardens and bushland. I am also working with youth to co-design experiments to understand more about our local pollinators. I learn so much from community gardeners and young people who I work with, and am constantly reminded that we can all BEE scientists. As a science communicator I facilitate workshops for all ages on native bees and other insect pollinators. I also share this passion through music as a singer-songwriter. My dream is to continue to share and celebrate pollinators and the ecology of our concrete jungle through music, theatre and art as well as co-created research with diverse communities.
With the guerrilla type shoot I had to make sure we did not have too much to carry so for a bit of atmosphere I ended up making my own sugar smoke bombs. Using an old tin can to make sure I could wave the smoke wherever I wanted it to go seemed like a great idea however I forgot that the smoke bombs erupt blobs of fiery goo and ended up burning my hand.. again.
Hopefully I’ll remember that for the next time.
Originally I wanted to shoot in a community garden to bring the story full circle with the work Amelie does with the gardeners in the area however we were on a deadline as she was heading over to Japan to do some research and none of my contacts at the councils panned out. So we tried to find some open gardens and eventually hit upon a a reserver near the harbour.
I thought we would be pretty secluded but it turns out that a million people and their dogs know about that place. Needless to say we made some new friends that day.
For the remaining images, I wanted to make it feel like a traditional portrait but one that if you look closer, you find a little hidden detail of the insects around the native flowers on her lap and shoulder.
Thank you so much Amelie for all your work and enthusiasm in helping me create this series. You are the epitome of a busy bee and I cant wait to see what you are getting up in the coming years.
Amelie Vanderstock is a science communicator, performer and PhD researcher at the University of Sydney. She is passionate about native bees, environmental education and the power of co-creating science to build community. She became an insect ecologist because she never lost her wonder at the amazing world of insects and their fascinating lives. Her dream is to continue to explore and share this wonder through music, art and play.