Andrew Newey’s Spectacular Photographs of Honey Hunters in Nepal

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Andrew Newey has covered some of the most incredible and rare cultures and traditions. From Mongolian eagle hunters to tribal festivals in Papua New Guinea, Newey knows how to truly capture one-of-a-kind images, documenting the cultures and traditions that may not exist in a century.

This time around he’s traveled to the foot of the Himalayas in Nepal to document the Gurung tribe’s bi-annual tradition of gathering honey.

While Newey and the hunters trek to one of the many honey hunting locations, the group collects foliage to be used in fires to smoke out the world’s largest honeybees from their hives. Once the bees are driven off and sedated, the dozen or so hunters get to work.

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The 58-year old cutter balances the wicker basket on the tango

The most difficult job in the group is said to be that of the “cutter”. Wearing a beige bee suit in the photograph above, which was given to him by tourists, the 58-year old cutter climbs up a 50-meter rope ladder that’s been secured at the top and bottom of the cliff.

From the rope, he uses two bamboo sticks, known as tangos, to gather the honey. With one sharp tango, he slices at the exposed honeycomb while using the other tango, with a wicker basket attached to the end, to catch the falling honeycomb. What he doesn’t catch falls to the base of the cliff, leaving the accompanying children rushing to the splattering globs for a sugary treat.

Here’s a look at a selection of photos from the series:

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A child of the Gurung tribe enjoys a piece of honeycomb that missed the basket and fell to the ground

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After a physically demanding day of hunting, a member of the tribe eats some honey for energy

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A large piece of honeycomb handing from the cliff

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The blood, blisters, and stings of bees can be seen on the feet of hunters

This tradition of hunting honey is a dying one, as are many of the other traditions Newey has immortalized. Between the younger generations heading into the cities in hopes of making a living off the tourism market, and the aging of the elder, experienced hunters, the knowledge just isn’t getting passed down as it has in the past.

To add to that, the tourism industry is contributing to the demise of this tradition. For upwards of $1,000, tourists can go on guided honey hunting treks, which leads to excessive harvesting — far more than the twice a year usually done, leaving not nearly enough time for the bees to properly produce the needed amount of honey.

Where it was common to previously pull in 200 litres of honey in the past, this particular trip only amassed 80 litres. And in addition to the dwindling supply of traditional honey, “red honey” — which is harvested in the spring and often shipped east to China, Korea and Japan for medicinal purposes — is in decline as well.

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A hunter looks up to the cliff as the cutter makes his rounds on the rope

Newey managed to capture just one of these incredible journeys, but in doing so he has captured an extremely intimate look of both a culture and tradition that seems to be dwindling along with the supply of honey.

Noting the reasoning behind these dying treks, Newey is fully aware of the paradox of his presence. Speaking about the people who have asked him how they can see this event for themselves, Newey tells the NY Times Lens Blog that, “it’s a double-edged sword. I just hope those same people don’t become part of the problem.”

(via New York Times Lens Blog)

Image credits: Photographs by Andrew Newey and used with permission

  • Bakri Hafiz Hisham


  • Pro Image

    These are so over processed. What a joke. Who knows what the camera captured.

  • fish

    What is your point? still a great collection

  • cacamilis

    and where can I see your not-so-over-processed images?

  • Chernobyl

    Great collection, but way, way overdone on the post processing. Sometimes it’s nice to just see pictures that look real.

  • eric westpheling

    or it really was just that magical…a little suspension of disbelief will make you live longer.

  • greenarcher02

    It really is foggy there… sigh people these days. Shouldn’t you be out there photographing instead of stupidly criticizing things?

  • Dis_log

    I am 101% sure that child is not a Gurung tribe, so please edit your story.

  • Sudip

    I am from Nepal and I definitely know what the camera captured. Believe me it isn’t far off from what my eye captured!

  • Sudip

    Should have just changed the tribe to village.

  • clipper

    Not so new Mr Newey! Gave my pal this book nearly 20 years ago after he did some V.S.O there as a forester

    Honey Hunters of Nepal [Paperback]

    Eric Valli & Diane Summers
    Harry N Abrams Inc, 1988 ISBN: 0810924080
    (some copies on Abebooks if your interested)

  • Mike

    I actually posted the same thing, but PetaPixel deleted my comment. Eric Valli did a much better job than Newey.

  • KH

    Agreed, these are really stunning. This also seems to help bring more attention to an even greater situation going on as well. Well done.

  • That Guy

    Perfect comment for a photo troll.

  • Slaven Smolčić

    Lucky,I still have old National with reportage about it some 20 years ago. :)

  • Christopher

    Oh, so you have exclusively photographed people, places, cultures, things and events that have never before been photographed? How many shutter actuations has your camera seen…

  • Christopher

    These photos are great, amazing and well done yet so many absurd complaints.