London Honey

Honeybees have been having a hard time. Their numbers are falling and yet they play a vital role to life on earth. Without bees many of our favorite fruits, vegetables, and nuts could vanish from our shelves and we humans would last all of 4 years on planet Earth. I met up with London beekeepers Chris Barnes and Paul Webb to discover more. Paul tells me, “Chris and I have a passion for nature. To be able to have that direct relationship with an animal & learn about its fascinating behavior whilst still being in the city is very special.”

The UK has an estimated 274,000 bee colonies, producing 6,000 tons of honey per year with the help of 44,000 beekeepers. Having spent time at 2 of their rooftop sites I can see why the honey bee is so compelling. There is something hypnotic about watching a hive being opened up and seeing the bees at work! I have loved getting to know the bees but unfortunately my interest has been sparked at the ‘end of the season’, so I now have to wait until they wake for my next foray into this extraordinary rooftop world.

  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/640, ISO: 100)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of Cafe Spice Nameste in the city of London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. 16th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/500, ISO: 200)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of The Red Gallery, Shoreditch, East London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. 4th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 55mm F1.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/800, ISO: 200)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of The Red Gallery, Shoreditch, East London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. 4th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/2000, ISO: 200)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of Cafe Spice Nameste in the city of London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. 16th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/400, ISO: 200)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of Cafe Spice Nameste in the city of London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. 16th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/125, ISO: 100)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of Cafe Spice Nameste in the city of London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. 16th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 8, Shutter: 1/500, ISO: 400)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of The Red Gallery, Shoreditch, East London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. 4th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 55mm F1.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/320, ISO: 200)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of The Red Gallery, Shoreditch, East London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. 4th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/320, ISO: 200)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of Cafe Spice Nameste in the city of London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. Paul and Chris have only recently taken over the care of this hive and they discover the bees have been making wild honeycomb inside the hive. 16th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/1600, ISO: 200)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of Cafe Spice Nameste in the city of London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. Paul and Chris have only recently taken over the care of this hive and they discover the bees have been making wild honeycomb inside the hive. 16th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/1000, ISO: 160)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of The Red Gallery, Shoreditch, East London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. 4th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/500, ISO: 200)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of Cafe Spice Nameste in the city of London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. 16th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5.6, Shutter: 1/2500, ISO: 200)

    Beekeepers Chris Barnes (dark hair) and Paul Webb of Barnes and Webb inspect their hives on top of Cafe Spice Nameste in the city of London. This is the final hive inspection to check for disease or problems before the hives are shut up for winter for the bees hibernation. 16th October 2014.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5, Shutter: 1/800, ISO: 320)

    Graffiti artwork by Louis Michel Masai for the #savethebees campaign by Jim Wilson found around London.

    Open fullscreen
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith London Honey

    Abbie Trayler-Smith

    #FutureofCities - London Honey

    Sony α7R, FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (F-Stop: 5, Shutter: 1/400, ISO: 320)

    Graffiti artwork by Louis Michel Masai for the #savethebees campaign found around London.

    Open fullscreen

About Abbie Trayler-Smith

Abbie Trayler-Smith is a documentary and portrait photographer. She grew up in South Wales before moving to London where she studied law at Kings College. Trayler-Smith began working regularly as a photographer for the Daily Telegraph in 1998; here she spent eight years covering news and features worldwide, including the war in Iraq, the Darfur crisis and the Asian tsunami. In 2007, she joined Panos Pictures.

Her work has been widely published and exhibited internationally as well as receiving many awards. Her first major work, "Still Human Still Here," was exhibited at HOST Gallery in London in 2009, along with an award-winning accompanying multimedia short film. In 2013 she became a member of A Fine Beginning, the Welsh photography collective. Based in the UK, she is currently working on a long-term personal project called "The Big O" on childhood obesity. It was from this work that her portrait of Chelsea won 4th prize in The National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Prize, London.

Interview

Why a project on urban beehives?
I saw some graffiti in East London of a giant bee on the side of a building. Alongside it was written “When we go we’re taking you all with us” and it got me thinking. (The artwork was by Louis Michel (aka Masai) for a campaign with called #savethebees and other artwork by Masai is featured in my story). Later that day I happened to see a picture on Instagram of some beehives and suddenly I couldn’t stop thinking about bees and decided to investigate further, hence my story. Photography is my excuse to be nosy, a way of exploring and understanding life.

What do you hope to get out of the project?
I have already gotten so much out of the project. I’ve discovered a whole new (to me) bee hang out on London’s rooftops – an urban apiary. And watching the bees is mesmerising; they are quite beautiful and clever creatures!

Why do you think urban beekeeping has become so popular over the last years?
Because it’s engaging and hypnotic. It gives you an intimate connection with nature that we can often miss out on in urban areas, and you get to eat your very own homemade honey. London honey is extremely popular; it’s very difficult to get hold of a jar!

What’s your personal relationship to bees?
I didn’t start out with one but it’s getting more personal by the shoot!

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