The Birds and the Bees

The Birds and the Bees | © 2019 Naomi Reiter

The Birds and the Bees | © 2019 Naomi Reiter

Creating a visual story is one of the most rewarding things I could wish to achieve as a photographer, but deciding on how best to deliver it into existence can be a small challenge.

For many years illustration has been a very private activity for me, but one that has always been my 'safe place' through my life's journey. It's not something I typically share publicly, and if I do, it is with great intrepidation. But many people have asked how this was created so I thought I'd share an insight into my thoughts and art processes.

I have been inspired by many illustrators over the years, but my soft spot has always been for MC Escher, a Dutch artist most respected for his visual challenge of physics, impossible shapes and endless patterns. One of my most favourite of Escher's artworks is 'Drawing Hands' 1948; this piece first magnetised me to his work when I was about 10 years old.

The notion that the simple line drawings could morph themselves into 3-dimensional hands totally fascinated me, not to mention the clever pun in the title! ;)


My Award-winning image of a newborn snuggled atop a sleeping cheetah was inspired by Escher's 'Drawing Hands'. It is titled 'The Birds and the Bees', hence the sweet pair of birds sharing a moment of affectionate conversation and the bees gently buzzing about. This little man is the youngest of four, two of his older siblings are twins. During the shoot his big sister whispered to me her baby brother was like their little cub, hence the cheetah.

I wanted to create a final piece where the photograph blends into the illustration; where the lines are blurred from where the photo starts and the illustration ends. I wanted it to carry a feeling much like a whimsical storybook. I wanted it to reveal a subtle quirk with the sweetness of a newborn baby.


The little birds are Sun Conures, big thanks to Lyndon and Karen from Beaks & Feathers Aviaries in Windsor for allowing me to visit them to capture these gorgeous little birds. The birds were photographed together in one single image; they really were 'talking' to each other during the shoot!

Every bee is an individual photo...I spent considerable time observing and photographing what I have also learned to be fascinating insects!

I illustrated the cheetah from a photograph I took at Dubbo Zoo and separately illustrated the grasses and flowers and flying trails of the bees. Once the illustrations were complete, I photographed the finished drawings to then start assembling the composite for the final image.

In total, all the illustration components took around 9-10 hours. The illustrations are all done in pencil on paper.

One big challenge I had was to match the illustration to the depth of field in my newborn photograph. This was a critique made at NSW State Awards so I re-illustrated some of my original cheetah drawing for Nationals (APPA).


It ultimately scored 85, (Silver with Distinction).

2019 AIPP Australian Family Photographer of the Year