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Telling of the Bees

Jake Eshelman | United States

An apitherapist uses tweezers to manually harvest the stinger of an uncooperative honey bee. There is no method of extracting apitoxin (bee venom) without lethally eviscerating the bee.

I grew up absolutely terrified of bees. As a boy, I always understood them as fierce little sentinels keeping me from picking tomatoes or smelling the flowers in my grandmother’s garden. And as I aged, I began to understand how totally irrelevant I was to them—or so I thought.

I’ve since learned that what we have, we owe to bees. Among the most prolific pollinators on the planet, bees helped create and maintain the biodiverse ecosystems that made it possible for humanity to take root and grow. Our shared evolution has grown increasingly intertwined over millions of years. Today, however, human activity is impacting wild and domesticated bee populations in unprecedented ways. And this affects us all—bee, human, and otherwise.

What began as a fear of bees has since transformed into a fear for bees and, by extension, for the ecologies we all share. As such, Telling of the Bees explores the nuanced and complex relationships between people and bees as they exist today in service of considering new ways to address our unfolding ecological crises.

Jake Eshelman (b. 1989, USA) is a photo-based artist and visual researcher exploring the complex relationships between people and other-than-human beings. He believes that humanity’s curious and self-imposed dissociation with the natural world provides a palpable backdrop in which we can more fully (re)consider our role in ecology. Through a documentary and intuitive practice, his recent work investigates interspecies relationships in industry, agriculture, and conservation in order to question the tenets of anthropocentrism and the implications behind the Enlightenment rationalization of “nature.”

Eshelman has exhibited work internationally, most notably at Vantaa Art Museum Artsi in Helsinki, Finland; Houston Center for Photography in Houston, TX; The Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, OH; The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington D.C.; Hume Gallery in Chicago, IL; Des Lee Gallery in St. Louis, MO. His work is in the permanent collection of the Chicago Design Museum and has also been included in independently published photo books, collaborative artist books, and even a children’s book by Simon & Schuster encouraging aspiring creatives to pursue artistic careers. He has also been featured in numerous publications including AND2020, Trouvé Magazine, Texas Monthly, The World Sensorium/Conservancy, and Then There Was Us, among others. He also enjoys lecturing about issues he explores in his work, as well as the creative process.

Jake is currently pursuing his MA in Ecology & Spirituality from The University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. He holds a BA in Classical Literature, with a concentration in mythology, hermeneutics, and reception theory, from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, as well a minor in Studio Art and Art History. Jake is also a member of The Fairy Investigation Society. He is based in Houston, TX, working worldwide.

www.jakeeshelman.com
www.instagram.com/jake.eshelman
jake@jakeeshelman.com

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