It’s Climate Week this week (3rd – 9th March). Climate Week is an annual campaign that’s all about re-energising our collective ambition to combat climate change as part of a global community.
That means assessing our own lives, our own workplaces – the real deal of what we’re all doing to help. It means reminding ourselves of the things we already know we should be doing.
So, what can we all do?
As a business, we’re on an open and challenging journey as we strive for sustainability in everything we do. It’s a constant learning curve, that brings together our material choices, the way we work with our producers, our office politics and of course our own everyday lives too. Alongside our work, as a team we also try to retain a focus on the small changes that we all can try to make in everyday life. Those little differences that can eventually roll into big ones.
It’s Climate Week, and this Wednesday, lent begins. So we thought we’d share one of the policies we have as a team here at Millican HQ – one that we feel everyone can share in the lead up to Easter, and beyond. We call it Low-Carbon Lunches.
How does it work? As a team, our rule is to minimise the packaging and food miles that go into our everyday lunches right here in the office. We try to revolve our working days around trips to Keswick market with our re-used bags in tow. We take the time to make soup and sandwiches at home, or together in the office kitchen.
Low-Carbon lunches make us think more carefully about what we’re eating, talk more about where it comes from, and relish every mouthful. Low Carbon Lunches give our working days a natural work/life balance – we always stop for lunch, and we always feel great for it.
Fancy joining us for lent, and hopefully beyond?
We’ll post as many pics as we can (it’s high time we got better at snapping our life in the office) and we hope you’ll share yours too.
Let’s champion the small changes with #Lowcarbonlunches
We are lucky to be part of a special rural community here in the Lake District. Jorrit and Nicky recently attended the opening of an inspirational exhibition in Grasmere, not far from Millican HQ, run by two local friends.
Land Keepers is a project created by Rob and Harriet Fraser – two talented artists – a photographer and a writer (among other exciting things). Combining imagery and words to convey the lives of Cumbria’s upland farmers, their exhibition tells an intriguing and important story – incorporating insight and ideas from local organisations, and local people, to convey the reality of hill farming in our spectacular region.
We think that in Climate Week, this story is a great source of inspiration that connects people and planet – helping us understand the important role that farmers play not only in food production, but in our global efforts toward sustainability.
So, we decided to share the inspiration and catch up with Rob Fraser for a fascinating Q&A. (All images: Copyright rob fraser/landkeepers.co.uk)
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves – and your unique creative partnership?
I have been a photographer for 30 years and a freelance location specialist since 1990. During that time I have worked on commissions all over the world for architectural, advertising, corporate and editorial clients. I moved to the Lake District a decade ago and now split my time between working for clients, undertaking photo-art projects and working with schools and community groups. I met Harriet four years ago at a party in Ambleside and very soon we were living together – we married two years ago on the shores of Wastwater, a very special day, but we forgot to get any pictures of the occasion and had to go back a week later to get some photographs of us by the lake in our finery.
Harriet has been a professional writer for the past 20 years. She was the youngest ever writer for Rough Guides and was one of the contributors to the first guide to India. She also wrote the guide for the north of England. Having children in the late nineties stopped the travel writing and she switched to writing about issues of pregnancy and child-care and has written a number of influential books on the subject.
Since our meeting we have started working together and formed a collaborative called somewhere nowhere two years ago. We both love being outdoors, immersed in the natural landscape, be it in the mountains, woodlands or on the coast. Somewhere nowhere was set up to celebrate the value of the landscape and the people that are connected to it. Sometimes nature is at the fore; sometimes it’s human effort, endurance and vision that grabs our attention.
So how did Land Keepers come about – what inspired you?
Seven years ago I was commissioned to shoot a series of images of a Cumbrian stone barn. Invariably I got chatting to the farmer who owned the barn I was photographing. He would hang over the gate telling me about what it was like to work the fells and I would spend about 20 minutes making the pictures and two hours listening to him.
It became clear that these people had such a great set of stories to tell, but, not being a writer, I couldn’t move the project idea forwards. Fast-forward a few years to me and Harriet getting together: it seemed like the perfect opportunity to re-visit the project and Land Keepers was born.
Initially we put together a pilot exhibition at the Cylinders Estate in Elterwater – where the famed Kurt Schwitters’ Merz Barn sits in the woods – which was very well received. We then set out to find funding for an 18-month project and got all the backing we needed within four months.
It became clear that it was a good time to be looking at the culture of hill farming and a lot of organisations were keen to find out what we could discover and how we, as complete ‘outsiders’, would choose to present our findings.
Tell us a little about the research that’s gone into this project, and your approach to recording your subjects.
We have now spent two years during the documentary phase of the project and have met with and interviewed 30 hill farmers spread out across Cumbria.
We have also been to auctions, numerous shows and even an abattoir as part of the project. We have been out on the fells to help gather in the flock in all types of weather (perhaps the most magical aspect of the project), helped with scanning, lambing, clouting (sewing a chastity belt onto a young ewe – honestly), walling and shearing.
As well as the farmers, we also met with representatives of organisations that have a key role to play in the management of the Cumbrian uplands: Natural England, Lake District National Park Authority, National Trust, United Utilities, RSPB and Federation of Cumbria Commoners amongst many others.
Our conversations with all these people have given us a fairly unique perspective on how the land is managed and the pressures on the landscape to provide us with so much more than just food production, such as carbon storage, clean water, biodiversity, leisure access and, many would argue, spiritual well-being. It seems that everyone is trying to find a way to balance the asks on the land, although it is proving an elusive quest.
Each and every person we have met with, I have photographed them in monochrome using an old-fashioned, cloth-over-the-head, large format plate camera. It is an event camera, one that encourages the subject to stand and look directly into the lens and therefore at the viewer when presented as a photograph. It was a deliberate choice to use this camera, as I wanted to slow down the process of shooting them and then only shoot four images of each. I am really pleased with the results. Although the prints have a timeless feel, they still capture the essence of the people that are working this land right now.
We have followed four farmers more closely throughout the seasons and I have had a great time photographing them candidly as they go about their work.
Why is this project about more than photography?
It is a case of the sum of the parts, photography and writing, being greater than the individual skills. Our work compliments each other and helps tell the story of hill farming as it is now and the challenges that lie ahead for the culture.
At the start we may have felt that this would be a ‘nice’ project to work on, but we quickly discovered that there is a great deal of politics swirling around the hills at the moment. Farmers get paid under stewardship schemes to manage the land and increasingly they are being required to lower sheep stocking levels under the terms of these schemes. Many farmers are worried that the numbers are dropping too far, too fast and could jeopardise the whole system of managing a flock in a viable way. They acknowledge that they could not survive without the stewardship payments, yet are apprehensive about the future of their culture. “I don’t get up in the morning to think about storing carbon,’ one farmer wryly quipped to us.
As well as comprehensive documentary pieces that talk of the balance, how the meat is produced and our process in producing the project Harriet has also included some beautiful and compelling word-art pieces that perfectly tell of our relationship with the land.
Perhaps her most evocative piece of writing, however, is a poem simply titled ‘Michael’. We spent a wonderful day walling with Anthony Hartley last summer in the Duddon Valley, together with two of his workers, Andrew Birkett and Michael Longworth. At the end of the day, over a cup of tea in his kitchen, Anthony told us that Michael was moving to Derbyshire to take up a tenancy of farm there as he could not secure one in Cumbria. Although this move has been positive and Michael has embraced the change, Anthony was saddened that a young guy has left the region, taking all his knowledge, skills and passion for the culture with him (read the poem below).
We have published a 48-page booklet on the back of the project that, as well as showing lots of pretty pictures, gives, through Harriet’s writing, a concise overview of what we have found out about over the two years.
Of all the images and stories you’ve collected, is there one (or a few) that is most powerful to you?
Aside from the images taken of Anthony and Michael walling, perhaps the most powerful set of images I produced were those taken on a gather below Helvellyn last April with farmer and champion fell runner, Gavin Bland. The snow line was quite low and we spent several hours beetling around the 700-metre line flushing out the swaledale and herdwick sheep for a neighbouring farmer in Patterdale.
I’m a trekking guide and have spent many years walking in the mountains, but this was probably the most extreme day I have spent in the Cumbrian hills. We dropped onto and crossed numerous snow-filled gullies with no winter gear: no ice axes, ropes or crampons. On a normal winters walk I wouldn’t have dreamed of going where we went, but this wasn’t a normal walk – we were there to gather in the sheep for lambing. What made it worse was the fact that I forgot to take any food and I ran out of energy trying to keep up with Gavin. Still, it was a brilliant day out in the hills and one I will never forget.
Besides that particularly memorable day there have been lots of instances where I have had to pinch myself, because I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be doing this project.
And what do you think is the most important thing we can learn from Land Keepers?
The most important thing is not to lose sight of the fact that this land has been managed in much the same way for over a thousand years. The Cumbrian fells are not a wilderness landscape and look the way they do because of the culture of hill farming, not in spite of it.
Farmers have quiet voices and are a fairly disparate group spread out in small valleys across this crumpled land. They are proud of what they do and are passionate about their stock and their place in the land, yet do not court publicity.
If nothing else we hope that Land Keepers gives a strong voice to them, as well as reveal the wider issues that are affecting the land.
Biodiversity, water quality, tree cover, carbon storage are all important, but then so is the culture that has hand-made this landscape over countless generations. It is imperative that the balance – when found – includes a viable place for shepherds.
So the exhibition continues – where can our readers see it?
The exhibition actually continues til May 10th at The Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere before heading to other locations in Cumbria, including Sizergh Barn, near Kendal from July to September. In November we have been asked to exhibit at the Royal Geographical Society in London.
We love sharing insider tips from our friends here in the Lake District. Can you share a favourite place, or a must-visit location for our readers?
I love walking in some of the quieter valleys, but then doesn’t everyone. Two particular favourite places are Langstrath, near Seathwite in Borrowdale and Martindale to the east of Ullswater. And I have a particular fondness for the small peak called Helm Crag that sits over the village of Grasmere. I have been up it more times than any other hill in the lakes and still don’t tire of the hike up it.
On the south-eastern edge of the National Park is Whitbarrow Scar. A brilliant limestone pavement area that has a very different feel to anywhere else in the Lakes and a great place to get 360-degree panoramic views from. I’m unsure about telling too many people about it though as I would like it to remain quiet.
Thanks Rob and Harriet for sharing your work. Readers, come back soon to find out about another of Rob’s projects – I, Porter – and find out why Jorrit is busily adapting an old rucksack for Rob to carry on a 17-day trek to Everest Base Camp via the high and tricky Cho La pass.
In the meantime, here’s a highlight from Harriet’s written work as part of the Land Keepers project.
‘Michael’ – a poem by Harriet Fraser
‘There’s not many who ken the sheep like Michael does.’
On the hill that Summer’s day, grey cloud hung low
like a lid.
Under foot, wet grass, bracken, and tormentil standing in for sun.
We passed Low Bridge Beck and Shepherd Gill,
Walked beneath broad bog patches and Dawson Pike,
Tracing the wall, holding the line between intake and fell.
We looked back along Duddon Valley, over Turner Hall,
Onto a land of crag, fells, screes, tarns, trees and sky,
Onto distant ridges of England’s highest crumbs of earth,
Across trails shadowed by shepherds, for generations,
While above, two ravens, silhouettes, soared.
Michael’s hands raised rocks as big as lambs, and heavier.
As stones were lifted, passed and teased into spaces,
And boulders hauled from the chill flow of a beck,
Gentle banter and laughter, like moss on rock, formed
around the edges of this symphony of work.
These walls, land’s bones borrowed and stitched by man,
May stand, unchanged, for a century. But on a farm this size
There are always gaps, forced by unforgiving rains and snow.
Today two hundred stones are fetched, fitted, back in place,
Two gaps, three men, one rhythm.
Now the valley has a gap a man gone, a rare breed.
There’s that many, says Anthony, raising four fingers of a weather-worn hand,
That many young ones in Cumbria who could take over a farm.
But now he’s gone. How will you find another like that?
Copyright: Harriet Fraser/landkeepers.co.uk
On a wet, windy Saturday night, what better place to be than the Alhambra. Not the Alhambra, that sits majestically overlooking the amazing city of Granada, in Aldalucia but Keswick’s one (and only) independent cinema. I like to think of it as our very own Cinema Paradiso (replacing the olive tree soaked hill sides for the rugged mountains surrounding our Lakeland town).
The Alhambra opened January 1914, so is celebrating it’s centenary this year. Way back on 22nd January 1914, the Keswick Alhambra Cinema opened its doors for the first time. An ‘excellent audience’ arrived for a screening of Quo Vadis; however due to ‘some slight defect in the apparatus’ the screening was abandoned and with Keswick still served by the railway, the necessary part was secured. The audience reconvened the following day to watch the successful first full screening of the picture.
No doubt the first proprietor, Mr Pape could not have imagined that after this shaky start, the Alhambra Cinema would survive, and thrive, for the next century. During that time it has continued to entertain local people and provide a warm, dry refuge for visitors when the rains came (and come they do).
This magical, single screen cinema sits pride of place in the heart of Keswick’s mini Soho District (St.John’s Street, just up the road from the infamous Mark (as in Field Bag) Keswick Collectibles). It has adapted to keep pace with technological change – silent to sound, black and white to colour, to cinemascope and latterly to digital. And credit to this small slice of history that it has successfully seen off the bingo revolution, the rise of multiplexes, videos, DVDs and film on demand, still bringing the best of commercial and independent cinema to this small mountain town and its visitors.
So with ice-cream in hand, Jorrit and I settled in for another incredible Streep performance in August, Osage County (this is definitely not a feel good movie, more of an intense, sometimes agonizing look at family) Along with the usual Pearl & Dean ads (reminiscent of my Saturday matinees as a child where we congregated to watch a couple of cartoons and the kid movie of the week), we were also entranced by the news of the upcoming Keswick Film Festival combined with the Centenary Celebrations.
The best films of each decade will be screened during the Festival (starts this Thursday 27th February) and following week. But as the festival programme states “how to choose one film to represent an entire decade? Chaplin or Keaton? Citizen Kane or Casablanca?” Tough choice, but they’ve made it and are offering pure gems from the last 100 years on the silver screen – including Vertigo, The Godfather (1 and 2), Cinema Paradiso (my personal favourite of all time), Shrek and Jurassic Park.
Sprinkled in between these classics are films from around the globe (Bangladeshi Third Person Singular Number) and down the road (The Raven and the Jetty) from hard hitting documentaries (We Call It Myanmar) to high adrenaline sports movie (The Crash Reel).
Jorrit’s already bagged 10 films in his diary, so he’ll be enjoying a long weekend’s break just a mile from home. I realise you may not be close enough to come along and join the crowds (not quite Cannes, but throngs none the less). But you’ll be in good company as John Hurt is the Festival’s patron if you can make it. If not, why not check out your local independent cinema and see what they can offer, you may even find it here, at Cinema Treasures.
If you fancy sending in an image and maybe a few lines about your favourite local (cinema), or movie, we’d love to hear from you – and share it too.
One of the most exciting thing to come out of our ‘Freedom Through Photography’ collaboration with Fujifilm UK was the quality time we spent with such a talented team of photographers – not to mention the subjects they photographed here in the Lakes.
By now you’ll have seen our second Freedom Through Photography film, starring the talented Andrew James – who photographed a local farmer, Tom Lorains in our neighbouring Newlands Valley.
Andrew is someone who’s turned his dream into a reality, in becoming a freelance photographer and journalist (and a bit of an entrepreneur). That’s the kind of story we love here at Millican HQ. We decided to get back in touch, and share a little Q&A about Andrew’s life as a photographer, his loves and his travel aspirations. Enjoy, folks.
You have travelled the world taking photographs. If you could spend a year of photography anywhere (Somewhere you haven’t been!) where would you go and why?
I’m off to the Antarctica later this year and that was one of the places I’ve always wanted to go! It’s difficult to think of one place when there are still so many locations I’d like to take my camera to but I really do have a hankering to explore India as it has eluded me so far. I have an image in my head of colourful chaos and I’d love to go and find out if it’s true.
What was your favourite part of the Fujifilm x Millican weekend?
I hugely enjoyed spending the day with Tom, the fell farmer I photographed. Just listening to him explaining about what he does was fascinating. I also enjoyed meeting up with the other two photographers – Derek and David. We share a passion so it’s easy to forge friendships quickly over a pint and a geeky conversation about f-stops and favourite lenses.
It is clear you and Tom built up a bond during the Fujifilm x Millican weekend. What’s the most important thing to remember when photographing people?
Not many people enjoy being photographed so you have to be able to put them at their ease. I always think if it was me being photographed I’d be uneasy and uncomfortable unless I started to trust the person taking the shots. Therefore, I try to gain people’s trust. It’s pretty simple really.
Is there anything / anywhere particular you’d like to come back to the Lakes to photograph?
The Lake District is such a fabulous place and I’ve photographed it many times. I would love to go back and photograph at a sheep auction because there would be so many interesting characters and lots of energy. In fact, I’ve already mentioned this to Tom so it might happen this year if I’m lucky.
Can you describe what Freedom through Photography means to you?
Escapism! I think this is what drew me to photography in the first place. It’s easy to get lost in the creative process and forget about all the worries of the world – like how to pay the mortgage, what’s the matter with the pet guinea pig, or why my car is sounding like it has got a bad case of whooping cough when I started it up in the morning. Freedom through photography means you can be creative where and how you like and everything else can stop. For a bit, anyway!
You haven’t always been a photographer yet you have always had a passion for photography, what first intrigued you?
I was never going to be a scientist. I had to make my way in the world somehow through the creative arts. I used to paint, not particularly well, but I loved the process. I started taking photos to help me and the photography just grew out of this. I’m writer/journalist by trade but the photography and writing now sit side by side. They make good companions.
Simply taking a photograph is only the beginning, many people spend a great deal of time on post-production. Do you? How do you know when an image is ready?
I rarely spend longer than 2 minutes on any one image in post-processing. I’m not anti-Photoshop. In fact, I think it is an essential part of the shooting experience these days and I do shoot with post-production in mind a lot of the time. An image is finished when it matches what you imagined it was going to be like when you pressed the shutter. I don’t want to change the scene but I want to give it the best possible chance of being noticed.
What part of your job do you love the most?
Right now, I love its unpredictability! Yesterday I was running a workshop on photographing owls, this morning I spent an hour talking to a very talented travel photographer about his craft, later this week I’m in London to help at a theatre talk about photography and will then spend the next day taking street photos. I’ve also just launched a new website called www.foto-buzz.co.uk that’s an exclusive membership site dedicated to the love of photography, so it’s all go.
Friday’s a good enough reason for celebration in our book. But since it’s also Valentine’s Day, we’re celebrating our favourite customer love story, too.
Last week we told you all about our friend Jackson Cassady, and his inspired annual celebration of his wife, Kyle’s roses. Here are a few more pics to brighten your day. Spread the love, folks.
With the help of his family, Jackson gathered as many red roses as he could and attached the same love note to each one.
Then Jackson’s family (and friends) helped him spread the roses around town to celebrate he and his wife’s wedding anniversary…
Strangers found the roses in random places all over town…spreading the love.
The roses were passed on to friends and loved ones…or delivered straight into the hands of Jackson’s wife, Kyle.
Whether you love or loathe Valentines’ Day, here’s a story to melt the heart of any cynic.
For the last 12 years, on the anniversary of his marriage, our long-term customer (and inspiring friend) Jackson Cassady, has melted more hearts than that of his wife. Read the story, read the note in the picture, and be inspired.
“I buy as many red roses as I can afford at the time, attach notes to them, and toss them around town. Years I was working away, Kyle and the kids or a friend would get it done for me. Lean years, I shakedown the couch for change – and the kids for their milk money – to scrape together a dozen. One oil-flush year I managed 300.
This year wasn’t a record, but it was special in that I was here to do it… and the way I did. I’m glad I had Dave (the Rucksack) there too.”
Read the note and imagine what happened next.
Strangers all over Jackson’s home town became part of the story.
It’s really something to spread the love like this – on whatever day it counts. All it takes is a little imagination.
Thanks Jackson, we think you rock, too.