In an immersive collaboration, Studio Airport and Emergence Magazine show the crucial role of pollinators
The online series reveals the perilous situation of pollinators, as well as the efforts being made to protect them.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 7 June 2023
Over the course of a year and a half, Studio Airport, a Dutch studio working at the intersection of graphic design and film, created an interactive documentary titled The Pollinators of Slovenia. Made in collaboration with US-based publication Emergence Magazine, which focuses on ecology, culture and spirituality, the documentary explores the crucial roles of pollinators and their fragile position in an age of ecological breakdown.
This collaboration was not the first of its kind, with Studio Airport and Emergence having worked closely together for the past eight years — it was, however, the first time that the latter provided a totally open-ended brief to the Dutch team: “The starting point was different as Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee [executive editor of Emergence] asked us to create a story completely produced and directed by our studio,” says Bram Boerse, director at Studio Airport. “They were eager to cover a story on regenerative agriculture, preferably somewhere in north/eastern Europe, as that region was less addressed in the magazine… From the moment after the brief, our team embraced the project and dedicated almost 1.5 years to it.”
During this time, the studio explored many different potential stories, eventually settling on the story of pollinators, who are responsible for the reproduction of nearly 90 per cent of flowering plants and 35 per cent of human-grown crops. They chose Slovenia as the context for this exploration, drawn to its rich beekeeping traditions, but then widened the scope to include wild pollinators (most bees are not) such as butterflies, wasps and beetles, among others.
Looking to understand how these important insects are affected by the forces of climate change and habitat loss, they interviewed voices of authority within the country, such as beekeepers, a forager, farmers and a chef. These figures became the centre points of the interactive documentary, which uses a mixture of photography, moving images and spoken word to communicate an immersive narrative of adversity, conservation and innovation. Told across five detailed episodes, viewers are presented with both society’s tendency for destruction (pollinators are heavily impacted by anthropogenic causes of climate change) as well as its capacity for protection.
Speaking on the design solution for such a multi-faceted project, Bram explains: “We knew creating a normal documentary would’ve never worked as the material we shot was too static. There was much focus on still photography and much of the film shots were shot without camera movement, all with the idea that they would be used as moving images rather than a film edit. These restrictions brought us to the idea of a film/photo essay that one could scroll over whilst listening to the soundscape, interview and music at the same time.”
The result is a truly captivating experience that brings all of the senses together to tell an often overlooked story. Though Bram says that The Pollinators of Slovenia was easily one of the studio’s most challenging endeavours, he says the team also consider it “a personal prestige”. And clearly, the hard work paid off: The documentary was recently nominated for a European Design Award, and is due to be transformed into a physical experience for Emergence’s upcoming exhibition, Shifting Landscapes, which opens in London later this year. “We’re very excited to see what that opportunity will bring to the project,” he concludes.
GalleryStudio Airport: The Pollinators of Slovenia (Copyright © Studio Airport, 2023)
Studio Airport: The Pollinators of Slovenia (Copyright © Studio Airport, 2023)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.