Honeybees, Matthew Brandt's photography

Matthew Brandt Honeybees

Bees of Bees (detail), 2009.

If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.
Albert Einstein

Bees of bees A1, 2012.

Bees of bees B3, 2012.

Bees of Bees 2 (detail), 2012.

Artist's Statement

Honeybees is a project that began at the beach where I stumbled upon a swarm of bees – hundreds in the wet sand, dead and dying – scattered across the Santa Monica shoreline. At the time, the news was filled with bold headlines about colony collapse disorder – worker bees were disappearing from their colonies, causing honeybee colonies across North America to collapse and die, disrupting the natural cycle of pollination and procreation. 

As this dire ecological mystery was just coming into public awareness, I was confronted with the physical reality of a hive’s collective death in a surreal scenario. As a way of remembering this profound experience, I decided to walk along the beach and collect the carcass of each dead bee that I saw.

One year later I photographed these bees and made a print out of their bodies using an antiquated 19th century photographic process called gum-bichromate printing. As I made more of these prints, I began collecting bee carcasses from local Californian honey and bee farms. Throughout my time working on this project, I have not met a single beekeeper that hasn’t lost a significant number of hives in the past 5 years.

Witnessing a dying colony undoubtedly charged my own sense of mortality and, perhaps more generally, I believe creative drive stems from an anxiety of death. Honeybees pollinate our crops, and without them our lives would be much more difficult. Bees help us survive in a beautifully balanced symbiotic cycle, and now there is a rupture in this order. That day on the beach, I stood witness to this rupture. In a futile attempt to sustain order, I held on, literally, by collecting as many dead bees that I could find before their bodies drifted, disintegrated, and disappeared into the ocean.

About the photographer


1982, Los Angeles, United States



Based in

Los Angeles, United States

About Matthew Brandt

Matthew Brandt obtained his MFA from UCLA in Los Angeles in 2008, where he still lives and works. His solo exhibition Matthew Brandt: Sticky/Dusty/Wet was exhibited at Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in 2014 and previously Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio in 2013. He has also had solo shows at galleries including Yossi Milo Gallery, New York (2014, 2012), Galerie Praz-Delavallade, Paris (2014) and M+B Gallery, Los Angeles (2013).

Brandt has been featured in group surveys including Light Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2015) and What is a Photograph?, International Center of Photography, New York (2014) and Land Marks, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2013). His work is held in the collections of The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, amongst others.