Hannah Sng Baek is a senior from Seattle concentrating in Irreality Studies, or the psychological underpinnings, historical consequences, and fictive experimentations surrounding our representations of reality. Coming from a high school background in black and white analog photography, Hannah has focused her studies through a visual lens: the power of visibility and the language and formation of images. She fights academically to undermine the power of the image to reductively decontextualize its object, but paradoxically, the power of photography (and her beloved, clunky medium-format camera) remains remarkable for its ability to calmly delimit, freeze, and display one point of view in one moment with a certain clarity. It is a wordless respite from her usual critical academic analysis for forging understanding of people through moments.
When I asked the French beekeeper, Eric, who hosted me two summers ago what his favorite English word was, I teased him for being unoriginal when he replied “beekeeper.” But he meant it, because where the French word apiculteur exhales such a coolly scientific air, the idea of being a keeper of bees felt to him so much closer to the deep sense of stewardship inherent to his work. In my series “Beekeepers,” which spans my three years apprenticing with beekeepers in New York City, the French Alps, rural Russia, I illustrate the unique character of international beekeeping practices and environments. But more than that, I try to capture what Eric felt when he told me his favorite English word; for no matter the changes in borders or tools, any beekeeper you find will be a proud keeper of bees.
Beware the Owner
When my mom was just a young white kid in Chicago, she waitressed at a Thai restaurant before most Chicagoans knew what Thai food was. There, she became lifelong friends with the owner, Aree, a woman who flew her off to Thailand, buzzed her hair, and forged upon her an indelible mark. Buddhism, fish sauce, and her habit of entering any Thai restaurant with a sawadeeka have always permeated my understanding of my mom. And in 2015, I finally met Aree—flanked by ten dogs, throwing me boy advice while splayed across the couch—she flew in the face of the peaceful Buddhist my mom always painted her as being. But her kindness was unmatched and she fed her dogs and me like the dutiful cook she is. No description fits this baffling figure in my mom’s life better than the sign on Aree’s steps: “Never mind the dog. Beware of the owner.”
Bullet Under Knife
While tuna appears to us nearly everyday in commonplace and sometimes unrecognizable forms—chunked and floating in water, expertly sliced and resting upon pillows of rice—we rarely see or even know what the tuna looks like as a whole body—and it is a body more bullet than fish. In Japan, where the exclusive Tsukiji Market tuna auction summons only the most invested buyers at the crack of dawn, the butchering of a tuna is a learned, physical ritual demanded by the stunning bulk of this creature. Through the documentation of this process, I hope to embody the sheer might of the tuna, where our distance from its reality as a whole animal possibly allows us to take for granted and overfish its existence.