Pat & Rosemarie
Introduction to the Keoughs by
It was a winter evening at my mother’s apartment in Toronto, 1986. The city lights spread like an illuminated carpet away to the west. The large dark patches actually indicate one of the wonderful ravines — a whole ecosystem vibrant with life, then dormant, awaiting Spring.
Two visitors entered the room. They were tall, slim, and indeed like the very breath of Spring. There was about them a feeling of energy, a spirited zest for life. They had slides, projector and screen. Their contagious enthusiasm and intelligence immediately augured for a pleasurable evening. When the slides began we were lifted out of the apartment and away from Toronto with its shopping plazas and city traffic. I use the word lifted deliberately. To say magic carpet may be trite, but that is what it was. By the time the last picture was shown, we felt as if we had been off the ground all evening. This was partly because of the quality of the photography but also because of the excitement and information imparted by Rosemarie and Pat Keough.
I had invited a few kindred spirits, including of course my mother, to join me in viewing the photographs. In addition to seeing the Keoughs’ lovely, inspired work, we also witnessed what a wonderful working team they make. We heard of their unique relationship, which began in one of Canada’s most rugged wilderness regions — the Nahanni. On the beautiful, wild South Nahanni River they were canoeing partners. A mutual love for adventure, remote places, whitewater, and nature, combined with a keen interest in photography, led to friendship, affection and to their marriage. We learned about their philosophy and their approach to each other and to their subject matter. We learned, too, about the Ottawa Valley.
That was, of course, the purpose of their slide show. But to me this is not really the point. Granted the Ottawa Valley is wonderful. It has spectacular scenery; it is picturesque; it has a great variety of landscapes and a deeply rooted sense of history. But one can say this about thousands of places around the globe.
The Keoughs show all of this, and they do it as artists. The Valley is their place, and they are doing what all artists who are worth their salt do — they are celebrating what they love. James Joyce showed his Dublin; Van Gogh his Arles. The Keoughs showed us their Ottawa Valley.
As the evening at my mother’s unfolded, we became totally transported to their place, and we saw it through their eyes. I have always said that the most important thing in a work of art is the thought. As we go through our daily lives, we see millions of images and notice almost none of them except the most mundane and practical ones. Artists notice things that others pass by. They capture them and point to them, saying “Take a look at this, isn’t it wonderful, or interesting, or sad.”
I am more often excited by the creative thoughts of photographers than I am by those of some painters. As each of the Keoughs’ pictures came on the screen, we were treated to a fresh image that demonstrated the selectivity of their eyes. Their decisions were complex, involving intuition as well as technical expertise. I kept mumbling to myself — and sometimes out loud — “what a good idea.”
The trip on which they took us that evening at my mother’s home will always stay with us.
Editor’s note: Bateman wrote this introduction for the Keoughs’ first book, The Ottawa Valley Portfolio, published Fall 1986. The Ottawa Valley was the couple’s home during the 1980s.