Conversātiō: a photo essay for Shepherdess


A beautiful photo essay has appeared in Shepherdess featuring images and an extract from Conversātiō: In the Company of Bees:

‘Upon starting her own hives in the back section of her home, Anne Noble began an endless fascination with the life of bees. As one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s widely respected photographers, Anne has put the humble bee at the heart of her work. She has learnt about their consciousness and how they communicate and navigate the world. Her relationship with her bees has grounded her and now her recent book, Conversātiō: In the Company of Bees, shares her passion with others in the hope that they too may enjoy the beauty of bees.

“About ten years ago I installed a hive at the bottom of our garden, as many of our fruit trees were flowering but not setting fruit. To look after bees requires slowing down and learning through observing how the hive functions. Opening the hive with a friend who had once been a professional beekeeper, finding the queen and discovering the workings of the hive — its complexity and the beauty of bees both individually and collectively — was magic.

I often went out in the evening to spend time watching the bees flying home. As the sun went down, the low-angled light would catch the bees’ wings; flashes of light coming and going. Over time, out of a kind of reverie, I began to see the world differently — as a complex interconnected network of relationships that a colony of bees makes palpably visible.

Learning about bees and the hive became a passion. Bees are completely independent of you. They are not yours. Yet you have a sense of responsibility for the quality of their lives, their larger environment and the site you created for them. Is there a viable queen? How well is she laying? Is that the sound of a healthy hive? Are the bees fat and healthy or are the young bees struggling? Is there a flash of early morning light hitting the hive to excite the start of their day?

My relationship with bees grew out of curiosity and into a kind of love affair. I thought about them obsessively and learnt a lot about the inner workings of the hive. I adored the sights, sounds and smells of the hive, and these preoccupations set me wondering about how I might combine two passions — and be both artist and beekeeper.”’