Caroline Fraser, Birches & Reeds
Caroline Fraser‘s work is inspired by the beauty and drama inherent in nature. While her images of Romney Marsh portray the landscape around her home in East Sussex, she is also drawn to the remoteness of a Hebridean island or an Icelandic glacier. Caroline has recently been featured in the notable online photography journal On Landscape and recognised by the International Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards 2015.
SM: It is very interesting to see how you create order from the chaos of the natural world. There have been entire artistic movements that have selected this exactly: wilderness and the chaos of nature as an escape from urban life. What sentiment do you strive to create in your audience when they come into contact with your images?
CF: I guess I am trying to express the immersive experience of being in nature. The calm and tranquillity that it can provide, alongside the beauty of wild places. By focussing on mood rather than a literal translation of what is before me I feel I am better expressing how the natural world provides endless opportunities for refreshment.
Caroline Fraser, Hebridean Impressions
SM: Your work, although representative of nature, is relatively abstract. What has motivated you to tame nature in this style? Are there any artists you have taken inspiration from?
CF: I would like to give you a really intelligent answer, but the truth is I don’t like carrying or using a tripod. It feels a very rigid way of working most of the time, and reduces the opportunity for self expression. Many of my most popular landscape work is very blurred, whether taken through a car window in the rain, or using intentional camera movement. Interestingly, I do use a very dead pan, conventional approach for my street and urban photography. I think it is a case of different environments provoking different feelings.
I have been inspired by the work of Chris Friel, Gerhard Richter, Paul Kenny, Susan Derges and Uta Barth, to name but a few. I enjoy looking at work that leaves room for the imagination and personal interpretation.
Caroline Fraser, Hebrides
SM: My favourite photographs of yours are probably ‘Birches and Reeds’ and ‘Reeds’. Do you remember the moment you captured these photographs and can you please elaborate on your experience?
CF: I remember it really well. I was on a group photographic trip in the Cairgorms and we were in a small wood. Everyone else was struggling with the low, dingy light, trying to capture the trees and the view. I saw a patch of reeds and grasses in the snow and wandered away from the group. I got down on my knees in the snow and experimented with vertical panning of my camera. I came away with some images that were totally different from everyone else’s. I am addicted to photographing grass, so I was just feeding my addiction. Intimate landscapes are my preference over wide general views. Increasingly I avoid including the sky in my landscapes.
SM: Your Icelandic images carry a sense of adventure. What are the most extraordinary natural conditions you have endured in order to take a photograph?
CF: Hiking on the glacier in Iceland was one of the most exhilarating experiences that I have had as a photographer. I have captured it in a very conventional way, mainly because it was so vast and different from anything I had seen before; I wanted to capture it without manipulation. I used a tripod; not something I often do. Hiking with crampons and all my photographic kit was probably the most challenging adventure I have undertaken. I recently had the opportunity to photograph Swedish lapland from the air in a helicopter with no doors on. That was very exciting. My eyes were so full of tears from the wind that I could barely see what I was doing.
Caroline Fraser, Svinafellsjökull 2
SM: These Icelandic images have a different feel to those you have taken in the Hebrides, and this led me to question your process. When you arrive in a new natural setting, what are the elements you look towards for inspiration? How is your process changed by the different natural surroundings to which you are exposed?
CF: A lot depends on the weather. When the lighting is dull or grey I can get really excited about multiple exposures and intentional camera movement . Having time to play around and experiment is crucial, which is why I often go out alone with my camera. If the sky is too blue and bright, then as a landscape photographer I can get a bit stuck. That is another time to put on a dark filter and play with light and colour or multiple exposure, exploring mood and shapes rather than a literal translation of a scene. I do get into a bit of a meditative state after a while, which can go in different directions depending on what is before me. I will be looking for colours and shapes. I am off to New Zealand for a few months over this winter. There is no shortage of colour there in the fiords, forests and glacial lakes.
SM: Has there been a particular life event that inspired your zeal for travel and love of nature?
CF: Having breast cancer 11 years ago changed the way that I live my life. I now live it for today, and not for ‘someday’ or ‘one day’. During and after my treatment I found that being in nature had immense restorative powers. Photography has become my means to express how glad I am to be alive.
Caroline Fraser, Romney Marsh Impressions
SM: Finally, what book are you currently reading or did you last read?
CF: Donna Tartt ‘The Goldfinch’ . What an amazing journey that was. If you are interested in art, forgery and the human psyche, read it!