WEST CARLETON – Carp photographer Freeman Keats spent the summer capturing the beauty, tranquility and character of West Carleton for a City of Ottawa project known as Microcosm.
Microcosm is an initiative of the City of Ottawa’s Public Arts Program. Artists from each city ward have been invited to produce a temporary, responsive public art projects providing new ways to see and experience non-traditional or overlooked areas in the ward.
“During this unprecedented time, the world is connecting more than ever, communities are forming in solidarity and around special interests all over the globe,” city staff released in a statement at the end of July. “In response to this, the City of Ottawa’s Public Art Program is launching Microcosm this summer, as part of their COVID-19 pivot initiatives designed to meet the needs of the community and to support local professional artists. Microcosm supports the local creative community by engaging artists to produce work in their respective wards. Twenty-three artist projects will be presented in non-traditional spaces for art across the city.”
Keats was chosen for Ward 5. The professional photographer moved to Carp from Kanata about eight years ago. He is originally from Newfoundland and moved to Kanata about 35 years ago. One of his favourite things to do is explore the surrounding community.
“I’m always out roaming around,” Keats told West Carleton Online from Alice’s Village Café last Saturday (Aug. 29). “I like to get out and see things, perhaps things others have missed.”
Keats took up photography after retiring from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s finance department. Wanting to keep busy, he started focusing more on his hobby of photography.
“I was invited to shoot a ski race,” he said. “I had never even been on a ski hill before. The first time, our photos sucked.”
Keats, who is a member of the West Carleton Arts’ Society, enrolled in a photography course at Algonquin College. Enjoying that, Keats joined the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (SPAO).
He enjoyed his time with the SPAO so much, he signed up from some masterclasses and he eventually became a board member.
“They’re phenomenal,” Keats said. “Here, students have to think. It was a real learning experience.”
Keats used his passion for a photography as a learning tool as well. He spent two years with a farming family documenting their life.
“I’m from the east coast, I knew nothing about farming,” Keats said. “I followed this West Carleton family for two years. Wrote a couple of books and sold a couple of photos.”
Since then, his business has grown and he’s even featured in some shows such as the ScotiaBank Contact Festival.
“It’s a little scary,” Keats said. “People are coming in to look at your art.”
Keats was selected by the city for this project, but he’s not sure why.
“I don’t know how I got selected,” he said. “They called and asked if I could participate.”
Keats wasn’t sure how he was going to contribute to the project to the Microcosm project.
“There’s not a lot going on in West Carleton right now,” Keats said, referring to the fact almost every single event has been cancelled over the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “There’s nothing to capture the vitality of the community, so I decided to show off it’s beauty.”
So, Keats recruited a friend to take him on a pontoon boat tour of West Carleton’s vast shoreline along the Ottawa River.
“It only cost me a bottle of wine,” Keats said. “It was a neat trip. I hadn’t done that before. I also drove around a lot. Walked a lot of trails. Swatted a lot of mosquitoes. It’s done. It’s filed. They seem to be happy.”
Keats says his curiosity is one of the best attributes a landscape photographer can have.
“If there’s no sign, I’ll stick my nose in,” he said. “Once I went in to a place that had ‘No Trespassing’ signs. I did get grief and I deserved it. That’s was the one time I felt bad. I said to her, ‘you’re right’.”
As someone who has visited all corners of Ward 5, Keats says there are many gems in the community.
“MacLaren’s Landing is a nice spot,” he said. “It’s an ideal little community. I stayed away from well known spots like Pinhey’s Point, Fitzroy Park. I used some photos from Morris Island. Wherever the car takes me. I’m always looking for a nice landscape.”
To see the Ward 5 photography of Freeman Keats for Microcosm, click here.