For the Love of Bees

Nov 13, 2013
Photographer Spotlight

By Karrisa Olsen

At a high altitude of nearly 8,000 feet along the High Road to Taos in Peñasco, New Mexico, lies a top-bar beekeeping farm. For the Love of Bees is owned and operated by a pioneer beekeeper, Les Crowder, who has been cultivating bees without antibiotics, miticides or other chemical mite deterrents for over fifteen years.

Gabrielle Marks, a customer of Les at the local farmer’s market, became interested in his craft and spent a day shadowing his organic process. Constantly curious about the stories behind our food, Gabrielle wasn’t familiar with the one that beekeeping, or Les in this case, had to tell. As a former industrial keeper, he wasn’t satisfied with the way things were operated–which led him to develop his own method of using herbal smokes and selective breeding of queens from the most successfully resistant hives.

Beekeepers at work

Sunflowers at sunset Wild turkeys

“I’m inspired by his holistic approach to problem solving – that patient philosophy of observation and invention, trial and error successes can be a blueprint for solutions far beyond the hexagonal perimeters of the hives: it’s inspiration to stay curious, and not to give up.”

Gabriella found the course of gaining trust and access simple, as Les welcomed her curiosity. The real challenge was keeping calm amidst swarms of buzzing bees, and adapting to shooting in the low-visibility beekeeper hats. Admirably observing the way Les handled the insects with such serenity pacified her phobia–even if only a small amount.

What Gabriella was also surprised to learn was that farms like this one offer internships and apprenticeships for aspiring farmers and beekeepers. Les spent five years as the President of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association and has been teaching classes and workshops since 1983.

The tools of a beekeeper A beekeeper and his toolsRemoving the honeycomb

Bees with the honeycomb

Undertaking a shoot just for personal appetite as a working professional photographer is always a commitment that requires voluntary valuable time and energy. As Gabriella put it, it sometimes “requires a lot of gumption” to go out and shoot for herself. In this case, the photographer walked away with not only lessons learned about the fascinating art of beekeeping, but with a sense of grounding, too.

“Whether Les’ methods for beekeeping will play a role in helping sustain bee populations, and whether they are feasible in large scale operations is of course a large question, but it gave me cause for optimism. There are small stories of success every day that can diffuse the paralyzing sense of powerlessness or resigned dismay.”

View more work of Gabriella Marks on her website.