Conversātīo — In the Company of Bees

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  • 2022

  • Communication

Designed By:

  • Anna Brown
  • Anne Noble
  • Zara Stanhope

Commissioned By:

Massey University Press

Designed In:

New Zealand

Conversātīo explores how humans relate to bees as seen through the lens of renowned photographer Anne Noble. Comprising a rich and diverse selection of images alongside an eclectic text accompaniment drawn from classical texts to contemporary interviews, it addresses a readership curious about art, ecology, science, literature and their intersections.


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  • This book represents an 18-month project derived from exhibitions and residencies, through an extensive collaborative process of thinking and decision-making among the three collaborators — photographer, curator, and designer. The visual elements, drawing on a decade of photographic material, cohabit with a collection of texts without competing and losing a sense of overall purpose. Collected writings about bees, educational projects, correspondence between and interviews with beekeepers, and a scientific essay all find their place within the overall work alongside ten years’ photographic oeuvre of bees in myriad contexts and formats.

  • This book represents an 18-month project derived from exhibitions and residencies, through an extensive collaborative process of thinking and decision-making among the three collaborators — photographer, curator, and designer. The visual elements, drawing on a decade of photographic material, cohabit with a collection of texts without competing and losing a sense of overall purpose. Collected writings about bees, educational projects, correspondence between and interviews with beekeepers, and a scientific essay all find their place within the overall work alongside ten years’ photographic oeuvre of bees in myriad contexts and formats.

  • This book brings collaborators and concepts together in a single volume with a design intent to do justice to each while maintaining the balance between them. "For quite some time now Anne Noble has been obsessed — if that’s not too strong a word — with bees. This has resulted in a rich, macroscopic body of work exploring the crises that face these little handmaidens of nature, from colony collapse to climate change. Conversātiō provides a textual consideration of the ideas embodied in these powerful images" — Art Beat’s Best Art Books of 2021

  • This book combines a number of design choices intended to make the work into a balanced, beautiful and satisfying object. The contents page presents the photography and text in parallel structure, with both of them being linked by a zig-zagging bee flight path as opposed to a traditional linear layout. As the reader-explorer moves inwards they find in the midpoint of the book the exhibition which represents the culmination of Noble’s bee journey at the Asia Pacific Triennial. This echoes the visitor experience of opening up the doors of the Cabinet of Wonder which revealed the observation hive within. The coptic binding allows the interior mechanisms of the book assembly to be visible. This is appropriate for a work built out of an open process of creation. It comprises multiple paper stocks, using high gloss for the opening photographic work. Cream stock to avoid garish white, with a screen printed sakura cloth French fold dust jacket. The format of the book is relatively small for its scope, akin to a compendium rather than the trophy coffee-table book.