When Pittsburgh-based photographer, Janelle Bendycki, was seeking sweet relief from seasonal allergies and a Claritin-induced haze, she found local beekeeper, Randy, and his raw, unfiltered honey. Janelle came across the all-natural cure while reading articles about allergy remedies, and thought photographing the hives would be a great creative escape while she was working in a studio full time.
I inquired via a Facebook post where to find local honey and the response from my friends was unanimously, “check out this guy Randy; he has what you need.”
Janelle first purchased honey from Randy in 2014, and asked if he would let her photograph his hives and learn about the honey-making process.
I didn’t know where the project would lead or what I would do with it, but it was the beginning to bridging my passion for food and educating our society about where our food comes from with my photography work.
Hearing about colony collapses in the news and honey bee populations declining at an epidemic rate gave Janelle even more drive for her project. She went to work photographing Randy and his bees several times throughout the year, documenting the complexity of beekeeping.
Throughout the process, Janelle wasn’t sure if her bee story would turn into a final piece, but nevertheless she had a list of specific items she wanted to capture. One of the most challenging aspects of the project was striking the right balance between photos of Randy and photos of the bees in the final edit. She knew she wanted to keep the main focus on the bees themselves, while making Randy a part of the larger, overarching story.
In order to help narrow down the final selects, I printed out contact sheets of the images and worked my edits the old fashioned way, which gave me the ability to leave it laid out on my work table after I felt good about it. Then I would sleep on it and walk over with my morning tea to tinker some more.
In the end, Janelle decided this project would turn into a great promo in addition to a project gallery on her site. The best moment for Janelle was holding the final mock up in her hands after the intensive process designing, printing images, and screen-printing the covers. “I ended up in a completely different place than where I started,” she says, but she is definitely pleased with the final destination. Now, with inspiration from Randy and the bees, Janelle is focusing on releasing a new project in the fall that explores wild crafted medicine made from local plants of Pennsylvania.
To view more of Janelle’s work, visit janellebphotography.com.