This article is an adaptation of our weekly Photography newsletter that was originally sent out on May 22, 2021. Want this in your inbox? Subscribe here.
By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences
“I've never been so nervous, ever, on a shoot.”
Not words that instill confidence in a Director of Photography, especially from the photographer you commissioned to photograph Angelina Jolie covered in honeybees for World Bee Day.
But I never doubted that Dan Winters was the right photographer for the job. He can manage a celebrity. And he’s a beekeeper himself, who got his first apiary at age 9. His obsession with insects continues, as reflected in these stunning bee portraits shot on the scanning electron microscope and the three hives he keeps as a self-proclaimed “gentleman beekeeper.”
Dan enlisted friend and beekeeper Konrad Bouffard on this project and together they ran several tests outside Dan’s studio in Austin. “I don't remember ever being as thorough with the prep,” he said. But when the test shots using lemongrass to attract the bees weren’t working, Dan took a page from photo history.
He started researching Richard Avedon’s Beekeeper, arguably his most recognized portrait, and part of Avedon’s epic American West project. He found an article that identified the entomologist who worked with Avedon on that 1981 image—and Konrad went on an “insane detective mission” to track him down.
Konrad did—and the 87-year-old entomologist gave Konrad Polaroids and letters from the original shoot—as well as the attractant they used for the bees. “Literally the same jar of queen pheromone!” Dan said. Dan and Konrad arrived on set early the morning of the shoot to test the 40-year-old queen bee pheromone before Angelina showed. It worked.
Walking on set, Angelina moved within six inches of a swarm ball of 60,000 of them. “She was some kind of fearless,” Dan says.
She didn’t wear bee protection, and came unshowered, because bees attack scents. “I told her, ‘You need to smell like an organism.’”
Angelina posed for 18 minutes, staying focused even as one bee crawled under her dress and was climbing up her thigh. “She never once even flinched,” Dan says. “There was never a moment of like, ‘Ooh,’ or anything. It was like she’d just kind of done this her whole life and this was sort of this laissez-faire experience for her. And I was incredibly impressed by that. I was the only person on the crew that didn’t wear any protection. I kind of did it in solidarity.“
Dan and Angelina set out to make an image that would honor the bees. And, after the prep and research, they collaborated on an image that pays homage as well to Avedon—both to his original Beekeeper photograph and to the technique used to create it. Oh, and this new image has become a phenomenon, getting 2.4 million likes on our Instagram page in a day.
I asked Dan: How would Avedon, who died in 2004, have reacted?
“I like to think that if I were 97 years old and someone re-created one of my images, I would be deeply touched,” Dan says. “So hopefully he would have thought the same.”
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INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY
Hard work: On the high mesas of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, vaqueros eke out a living by raising cattle and goats. With no rain for more than a year, Nary Arce Aguilar must travel down to the lowlands with pack mules several times a week to collect enough water for his family and animals to stay on their ranch.
See: A road trip through another side of Baja
TODAY IN A MINUTE
Rediscovering her nation: When Kristin-Lee Moolman was younger, she wanted to get away from her white, Afrikaans upbringing and the aftereffects of the apartheid system once forced upon South Africa. She tried commercial work, then gained international recognition for her powerful portraits against surreal, bleached-out landscapes. It was only during an extended homecoming that she made peace with her homeland—and her recent photography and film work has sought to challenge stereotypes about its people, CNN reports.
Big break: As a teen, David Bachrach captured one of only three photographs of Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg, just after the president finished his famous address. He opened a studio that has been around for 153 years and made portraits of every president from Lincoln to George H.W. Bush. Other luminaries included Amelia Earhart, Hank Aaron, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and John McCain, Smithsonian reports.
Reopening America: The New York Times photographed people in all 50 U.S. states as COVID-19 restrictions were falling away, and Americans by the tens of millions got vaccinated. See the project here.
THE BIG TAKEAWAY
Valor, and internment: Some Japanese Americans distinguished themselves fighting for the United States against the Axis powers in World War II. Others, even members of the same family, were removed from their homes, had their businesses taken, and were interned in dusty camps in a terrible chapter of U.S. history, Erin Blakemore writes for Nat Geo. (Pictured above, the Hirano family poses with a picture of oldest son Shigera Hirano, an Army sergeant. Even as he served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, his family was incarcerated in an internment camp in Poston, Arizona.)
IN A FEW WORDS
DID A FRIEND FORWARD THIS TO YOU?
On Monday, Debra Adams Simmons covers the latest in history. If you don't get the daily newsletter, sign up here for Robert Kunzig on the environment, Victoria Jaggard on science, George Stone on travel, Rachael Bale on animal and wildlife news, and Rachel Buchholz on families and kids.
THE LAST GLIMPSE
Checkers: What attracted the National Geographic Society’s senior photo archivist to this photograph that appeared in our magazine in 1977? “I love the quotidian nature of stretching one’s arms wide while in the middle of a friendly game,” Sara Manco tells us. Photographer and writer LeRoy Woodson Jr. captured this routine moment and others in a feature titled “To Live in Harlem...” In a distinguished career, Woodson also worked with Time, the Washington Post, Newsweek, and Forbes. Want more New York City images? Here are stunning Nat Geo Your Shot photos from the Big Apple.
This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard and Monica Williams, and Jen Tse selected the photographs. Amanda Williams-Bryant, Rita Spinks, Alec Egamov, and Jeremy Brandt-Vorel also contributed this week. Have an idea or a link? We’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!