Photographer Varma to give visual lecture on vanishing bee population



Ending Week Six’s theme, “Vanishing,” Anand Varma will discuss the end of life as humans know it.

In his morning lecture at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, Varma plans to talk about the declining population of bees, with added visual examples published while working for National Geographic.

Varma, a freelance photographer and videographer with National Geographic, shot the the magazine’s  May 2015 cover story, “Quest for a Superbee.”

In the story, Varma’s visuals convey the story of the declining bee populations and the efforts by scientists and breeders to keep them alive, as well as find the cause of their disappearance.

“The message is kind of comparing two stories of conservation in the United States, so [I’ll talk] about threatened species and some of the complex science behind that,” he said.

Varma first established his background while majoring in biology at the University of California, Berkeley. While studying, he started photographing more natural subjects and subsequently switched to photography.

He became a “science storyteller,” and began to develop stories through photographs and videos. In doing so, he hoped to provide a better understanding of complex issues.

“Some of the complexities I want to talk about have to do with how these stories get conveyed to the public, often in very simplistic ways that overlook a lot of the complexities of the issues,” Varma said. “My efforts, specifically in the decline in honey bees, are to try to see the parts that nuance a story, to get people to understand the complex tradeoffs, and trying to preserve honeybees and to protect our future relationship with them.”

Although it would be hard to see the exact connection, Varma believes media attention may have helped in the new changes protecting honeybees.

Once he started to pursue this career, he found work with National Geographic in 2006 while as a biology student. Networking led him to the magazine’s editorial staff. From there, he assisted other photographers at the magazine until he pitched and published his first feature in 2014.

Although he doesn’t believe them to be better than written stories, Varma said visual media have unique ability to help tell important stories like conservation.

“I do think that using visual media is a very powerful tool to communicate ideas,” he said. “It sticks with people. It captures people’s imagination. It allows you to illustrate subjects, their actions [and] processes in ways that other media really can’t.”