Kodua Galieti: The Beauty of the Bees
At a certain point in her life, photojournalist Kodua Galieti became enchanted with honeybees and added two hives to her organic garden. But as she began working with the bees, her photographer’s eye took her much closer: with macro photography, she began documenting—up close and personal—the wonder of life that creates so much life elsewhere.
“As I would check in on the bees—go in there, look at the frames—I was just amazed at what inside the hive looked like,” Galieti tells Organic Connections. “So it was natural for me to bring my camera. I started doing a lot of macro photography, and it opened up into a whole new world. I think there’s such a beauty and whimsical elegance to the bees when you see them up close like that. I didn’t know they had fur until I photographed them. I didn’t know they had hair on their eyeballs until I started looking that close, and boy, it’s a different world! I fell in love with it.”
Amazing the Beekeepers
Galieti began showing off her photographs at conferences and gatherings of beekeepers and enthusiasts—and found that many of them had no idea what they were working with every day. “Most beekeepers don’t look at bees through a macro lens,” Galieti says. “They’re just doing their jobs, tending the bees. So to be able to bring this little creature into such magnification for them has been amazing.
“I’ve gone to bee conferences all over the United States and Hawaii. I have a beautiful exhibit I’ve set up that tells the story from the hive to harvest of the bees. I’ve watched diehard beekeepers stand in front of these images in awe, and realized they are seeing sometimes for the first time what it really looks like that close with that magnification.”
“A Beautiful Little Insect”
But it’s not just beekeepers that are amazed—it is everyone. “I’m trying to make it so that bees are more approachable, even to children,” Galieti explains. “Instead of people wanting to freak out and swat it away, I can go, ‘Wait! Look at it! Learn about it! It’s not so scary. It’s a beautiful little insect there.’”
Galieti has even created a bee calendar, which has proven extremely popular. “I wondered how I could reach people who would not give a bee a second thought,” she says. “And I realized I could tie my photography in with a calendar and have a lot of information that would delightfully educate people. It turned out there wasn’t really a bee calendar in the entire bee industry. I’m in my third year of calendars and it has just taken off.”
An Eye for Beauty
Galieti has been photographing all her life—and as with the bees, she has always been drawn to beauty others might miss. “If you ask my family they’ll tell you that I’ve always been into photography,” she recounts. “I don’t recall that, but they say it was just always a part of the way I looked at things. I originally got involved with photography probably 25 years ago going on mission trips through my church. I started taking lots of photos. Most people on the teams going to other countries would be looking in one direction, and I was always looking in a different direction. I was like, ‘Don’t you see that over there?’ I was always looking at things differently. Then I got my first photojournalism assignment and it took off from there.”
Saving the Bees
Galieti has also used her lens to bring a sharp focus to vital research into factors that are endangering bees, such as colony collapse. “I have had the pleasure of meeting some real movers and shakers trying to figure out this mystery,” Galieti says. One such person is biologist and researcher Randy Oliver, who maintains a website called ScientificBeekeeping.com. The site is dedicated to informing beekeepers on issues confronting their work, and how to deal with them naturally.
“Randy Oliver is not funded by a bee company; he’s funded only by people who believe in his work,” Galieti continues. “He’s really straightforward with his findings, and not swayed left or right. He’s one of the most sought-after speakers in the bee world for his research and findings. Looking at the bees with that magnification helps Randy to figure out what’s going on, and he also uses the photos on his website.”
In addition to other scientific projects, Galieti recently journeyed to the Central California almond fields and took part in research that spotlighted unauthorized crop dusting that was greatly endangering the bees brought in to pollinate the almonds.
“Last year I traveled with Kim Flottum, the editor of Bee Culture magazine, to capture the story of the almond pollination in California,” Galieti relates. “For almost three weeks every day we were in the trenches, talking to beekeepers and orchard owners. We were there while crop dusters were spraying when they shouldn’t be spraying. I shot over 5,000 photos in three weeks, capturing what was going on from the beginning of the bees in the holding yard until the last bloom falls off.
“We documented a lot of problems. One commercial beekeeper was just beside himself, watching a lot of his bees dying. I was able to shoot those bees for him and put a collection of images together. I was also able to capture crop dusters flying over. They had been asserting that their dusting didn’t affect the bees, and I was able to show the drift of the spraying. You could look at the photographs and see it drifting right there where all the bees were.”
A collection of Galieti’s images—showing solid proof that the spraying affected the bees—was finally provided to the EPA so that action could be taken.
Awe and Respect
One might think that working in such close proximity to potentially swarming stinging insects might be somewhat fearsome. This is not at all the case for Galieti. “I don’t have any fear of them, which is what happens when you know how to read them,” she concludes. “One thing I love about bees is you can’t train them. You have to come into their world and respect their world and the way they do things. So when you go into the apiary, you do it their way; you respect their way of doing things. It’s their society that you’re coming into, and you respect that. By doing so, then they let you into this world.”
For more information, please visit www.koduaphotography.com.