Photo and video by danwintersphoto / Angelina Jolie has long been involved with the UNHCR as a special envoy, and now she's also working with UNESCO and Guerlain on a Women for Bees initiative that will ultimately build 2,500 bee hives and restock 125 million bees by 2025—while training and supporting 50 women beekeepers. To promote the initiative for World Bee Day, in collaboration with natgeo, Angelina wanted to do a portrait covered in bees. I'm a beekeeper, and when I was given the assignment to work with Angelina, my main concern was safety. Shooting during the pandemic, with a full crew and live bees, made the execution complex. And I knew the only way to ensure we achieved the desired effect for the photo was to use the same technique that Richard Avedon used 40 years ago to create his iconic beekeeper portrait. I hired my friend Konrad Bouffard, a master beekeeper, to help. He contacted the entomologist who formulated a special pheromone (known as queen mandibular pheromone, or QMP) for Avedon and worked with him to capture the image of beekeeper Ronald Fisher, which appeared in his book "The American West." The entomologist offered to let us use the actual pheromone from the Avedon shoot. We used Italian bees, kept calm throughout our shoot by Konrad. Everyone on set, except Angelina, had to be in a protective suit. It had to be quiet and fairly dark to keep the bees calm. I applied the pheromone in the places on her body where I wanted bees to congregate. The bees are attracted to the pheromone, but it also encourages them not to swarm. We also placed a large number of bees on a board that rested in front of her waist. Angelina stood perfectly still, covered in bees for 18 minutes without a sting. Being around bees is always an experience that leaves me in awe. I think this shoot was also an awe-inspiring event for all who were present—and our offering for World Bee Day has its own roots in photographic history. Creating this portrait exactly 40 years later, we are not only honoring bees and beekeepers everywhere today, we are also honoring Avedon, his iconic image, and the technique by which it was achieved. Link in bio for more.
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