Here are some words in progress from my forthcoming commission for the Outrider project in Hereford, curated by Salt Road.
Drawing from four of Alfred Watkins’ collection of photographs on bee keeping, my texts traverse the content of each image and consider them as objects in their own right. My work also incorporates more philosophical musings on the nature of looking and of photography, as well as drawing on my experiences of travelling to Hereford for this research.
A swarm of docile honey bees have temporarily settled themselves in the branches of a small tree on the edge of a pathway. A man reaches a wicker skep up to the swarm, carefully trying to coax the little creatures in, or to slice the branch clean off and catch them. In his neat beard, turn-of-the-century wool suit and straw boater, this man is recognisably Alfred Watkins and the bees are his.
Marion appears in a handful of Watkins’ bee photographs. In each she wears highly inadequate (to modern eyes at least), formal, restrictive clothing. The heat in this photograph looks to be incredible but at least her skin is covered to provide some protection from the sun’s and the bees’ stings. Dots mark the surface of the photograph and prick Marion’s long skirt. Roland Barthes has identified a particular photographic phenomenon: the punctum, a tiny piercing arrow-like form that protrudes from the surface of the photograph and into the space or body of the viewer. This is a ‘sting, speck, cut [or] little hole’ almost exactly like a bee sting. (Barthes, Camera Lucida, p.16)
The photographs belong to the collection of Hereford Museum and Library.
You can find out more about the project and the other artists in Outrider by visiting the project blog: outriderblog.wordpress.com