During Changing Tents, I’ve got from a visitor the link to this Avedon picture and the accompanying story in exchange for a pot of urban honey:
Ron Fischer was born and raised in Oak Park, Ill., and spent much of his adult life working as an accountant for various high-powered financial services companies.
But always in the background was the pull of his grandparents’ 1844 farm between Orion and Coal Valley, Ill., the fifth-oldest in Rock Island County.
He spent a lot of time there as a child, developing an interest in gardening, and as an adult he staked out a plot of his own where he planted an orchard and berry patches of all kinds. He worked in the Chicago area, but he returned to the farm for his hobby.
In 1970, he bought a honeybee hive because his berries and fruits needed bees for pollination and, having “no idea how to keep bees at all,” he took courses from the University of Illinois and Ohio State University.
Fischer’s life has now come full circle. In 2005, he bought 60 acres of the farm and moved there. Now he is the expert, teaching others about beekeeping.
In 1981, Fischer was photographed, bare-chested and covered with honeybees, by internationally known photographer Richard Avedon. Fischer was positioned standing in front of a barn onto which white paper was tacked for a plain background.
To get the bees to land on Fischer, a university entomologist he was acquainted with patted queen bee pheromone (an attractant for other bees) onto several spots on Fischer’s head and chest.
Then, about 200 feet away, packages of bees were opened on the ground. The bees detected the pheromone and began to move. Fischer still remembers watching the swarm of bees heading his way.
He wasn’t exactly scared, but he wasn’t sure what to expect, either, because he’d “never done anything like this before.
“Then they started landing on my head and chest. What was really something is that each bee has six legs. If you multiply that by thousands of bees, it sort of tickles over your bare skin.”
When Avedon was finished, Fischer gently brushed off the bees, put on a shirt and got into a car.