We’re Rob Fraser and Harriet Fraser, working together through our collaborative practice somewhere-nowhere. We’ve been working together, creatively responding to the landscape and the nature and culture of place, since 2011. Guillemot, the black-and-white dog, doesn’t say much but is an essential member of the team.
After spending decades working independently in our fields of photography (Rob) and writing (Harriet), we were drawn to work together through our shared passion for the natural world and a curiosity about the stories that shape land and can lie hidden. Between us, by the time we met in 2010, we’d walked up and down most of the Lake District fells, spent a fair amount of time in the Himalayan range, and enjoyed wanderings through Scotland and scores of other countries. We brought together our styles of photography and writing – Rob often turning to film cameras, including large format and panoramic, and Harriet using prose and poetry to add to documentary-style essays – and we moved beyond this. Fast forward to 2019 and we’ve developed a practice of working in and with the environment that brings us into new conversations and journeys, and keeps nudging us to seek fresh experiences and to learn more.
When we began working together through our first collaborative project, ‘Land Keepers’, we were enormously privileged to walk and work alongside upland farmers: thus began a new way of seeing, feeling and understanding a landscape we’d thought, up til then, we knew well. Through this project we also met representatives of organisations charged with caring for landscape and developing policies (including United Utilities, National Trust, Natural England, the Foundation for Common Land and the Lake District National Park Authority) and we began what has continued to be a quest to better understand the complexities of place: we are eager to consider more than one perspective, and share this openly without being driven by one single agenda.
Land Keepers culminated in a touring exhibition and the publication of a book. As well as bringing us into conversations involving multiple perspectives, it sparked the beginnings of a poetic approach to our work, integrating prose, poetry, documentary, photography and textual art into our presentations. With Harriet’s MPhil (University of Glasgow, 2017), the concept of Open Fell Poetics was seeded, and the integration of land art into our work has developed, with a series of temporary installations as well as permanent sculptures. The Long View (2015-2018) included installations as part of a wider project taking time with seven remarkably ordinary trees spread in a constellation across Cumbria which allowed us to learn more about trees and woodlands, meet tree specialists, environmental scientists and climate modellers, and get to know a varied and changeable landscape where every one thing is connected to every other.
Through our work we invite alternative ways of being in and with the landscape, and different ways of looking and seeing: for us, walking, taking time to pause, and to feel (even on the bad weather days), is fundamental in getting to know a place, along with continued conversations with others who bring special insights. Not everyone’s views chime with ours – we like to be challenged and to learn and don’t think it’s very healthy to exist in an echo chamber that does little but reinforce existing beliefs. We’ve recently extended the somewhere-nowhere family to include seven associates from a variety of backgrounds; they help to keep us on our toes and ensure we don’t get stuck!
Like many people, we’re finding that our approach to life and work is being pushed in new directions by the unprecedented speed of environmental change across the globe, and the many issues associated with this. Consideration of ‘balance’ in a landscape that has multiple demands placed on it, yet is not an infinite resource, is continually in our thoughts. Our work cannot avoid bringing in the subject of climate change and other pressures on natural systems at the same time as celebrating the inspiration that comes from being in nature, the positive actions being made to improve things, and the wonder we feel when out in the elements that, ultimately, underpins our drive to be grateful and to care for what we have.
If you’re curious about our other projects, there is more about them on the somewhere-nowhere website.