somewhere-nowhere is the collaborative practice of writer Harriet Fraser and photographer Rob Fraser. Through prose, poetry, photography and site-specific installations, which are often ephemeral, they invite conversations about the relationships between humans and the environments we inhabit and alter, and the role of art in communicating cultural stories and engaging others in connecting with nature and discussing critical questions. Their work does not shy away from celebrating beauty but does shun a romantic view: they reflect on the multiple layers of landscape and viewpoints – and with these, multiple truths – and ask how value systems influence the way we are inspired to care for environments, both locally and globally. Their work often highlights cultures of communities on the edge, and invites debate about the way forward in a time of environmental stress.
Harriet and Rob’s creative process includes long distance and multi-day walks, with a great deal of pausing, fueling a response to place as well as to journeying. Their research also involves conversations and collaborations with people whose work is land-based (such as farmers, woodworkers, fishers) or focused on environmental issues (such as ecologists, environmental data analysts, hydrologists), and organisations charged with influencing and implementing policy.
Their work also questions how perceptions of place and expectations are conditioned. Harriet’s MPhil in Creative Writing (University of Glasgow, 2017), Open Fell Poetics, interrogated literary colonisation of landscape and misrepresentation of upland farming and presented a year in upland farming using practice based poetics.
FIELDWORK Q&A – October 2019
How is fieldwork part of your practice?
Our work is always rooted in the outdoors and considers both nature and culture of place. Long and multi-day walks are fundamental to the way we experience place, allowing us to become acutely attuned to the environments we find ourselves in. We do not, however, work in isolation; a critical element of our fieldwork is to walk and talk with, and photograph, people whose work attaches them to a particular place or gives insights into a specific environmental issue. The combination of our own immersion and close attention to place with the knowledge of others is crucial for the development of our thinking and our artwork.
How would you describe your fieldwork activity?
Our fieldwork activity is part methodology and part creation. It can involve conversations with others, or extended periods of silent meditative time in one location. Photographs of place can, of course, only be taken in that particular place, and Rob’s resulting images contribute to our research and our final output. His choice of large format or panoramic film cameras forces a slow, considered approach to image making that is continued in the darkroom; his digital work includes still and moving image. Harriet’s writing is always made in place rather than retrospectively. She may write on rocks, in earth, or on cloth placed in the land, so that words appear momentarily; photographic images of their temporal form capture their fleeting existence. Raw notes are refined for publication in books and anthologies.
How are you currently sharing your fieldwork?
We share our work online through our main website and individual project websites; through working with schools; (slow) public walks; conference presentations and exhibitions; and with articles in academic journals and mainstream media. We also collaborate with teams of environmental scientists and present our work through project partners such as Woodland Trust, National Trust, Farming Networks and National Park authorities.