WC Fields famously said: “Never work with animals or children”. A trenchant one-liner. But if you slavishly obeyed it, how would you go about getting a beautifully composed, close-up shot of bees feeding on a dripping honey-spoon?
The answer is that sometimes, working with animals is unavoidable (although I do occasionally have some sympathy with his opinion on children, my own included). I have to confess that I have done quite a lot of work with animals.
That said, there are two ways of getting your iconic bee-sipping-honey image.
- You could pop down to Tesco’s, buy a squeezy of honey (read the label: “a blend of non-EU honeys”), scoop out a spoonful and hold it up in the air with one hand, with your smartphone in the other hand – and wait. Eventually a bee will come. Indeed, several many bees may come. And you will snap away happily, posting the photos to your Getty Images account and wait for the royalties to roll in. (Just don’t forget your EpiPen). Job done.
- Or you could design a series of backdrops in a professional studio, a stylist, a runner, a photographer. And some bees. That is where I come in: supplying even-tempered, calm bees to a photoshoot (and feeding them their own honey to avoid the possibility of disease) and delivering them on camera to order has become a sideline activity for the Bermondsey Street Bees.
Commissioned by Bompas and Parr on behalf of their client, Relais et Chateaux, I arrived at Addie Chinn’s SuperBrick garage studio at the back of a car park in Brick Lane with a small nucleus hive of bees tucked under my arm. Cool, or what?
My job was to produce the required amount of
starlets bees into each frame of the shot, on time and on demand. And to retrieve the bees which had fed on the honey and flown off to share their booty with their bee-buddies. It’s a humane, sustainable task – even in the wonderful world of beekeeping.
And there are a few tricks of the trade of bee-wrangling. But like the Magic Circle, I am not at liberty to disclose the inner workings. (Besides, I discovered most of them myself!) Suffice it to say that a sound knowledge of bee-behaviour, a passing familiarity with the exigencies of high art and the capacity to cope with both tedium and flurry are all in the job description.
So, as the U.K.’s pre-eminent commercial bee-wrangler, I’m taking it upon myself to respond to WC Fields’ professional advice with a trusty beekeeping edict: “Never work with bees with alcohol on your breath”.
Know what I mean, WC ?