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Keough

Bound to Perfection

Pat and Rosemarie Keough’s photographic tomes celebrate a love of nature, humanity and each other.

Pat and Rosemarie Keough’s tomes are the labour of love of a couple who complete each other and whose work personifies yin and yang in photography—detail and majesty, delicacy and ruggedness.

The Keoughs share their lives and art in ANTARCTICA and LABYRINTH SUBLIME: The Inside Passage. The collector volumes have earned 27 awards, including gold medals. The books, each hand-bound in leather, offer unique imagery. The master binders use ancient techniques. Their limited edition of 950 took six years to complete. The tours de force explore the wilderness of Antarctica and the labyrinth of islands of the American–Canadian sea route known as The Inside Passage.

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Photographs from ANTARCTICA, the Keough’s first tome including the breast feathers of an Emperor penguin.

The Keoughs’ initial venture in publishing left them frustrated. “We didn’t want ‘pleasing;’ we wanted perfection,” Pat says, commenting on the industry’s inclination toward mediocrity. “We wanted something that was beautiful and that would last.” The Keoughs’ first attempt at self-publishing, The Ottawa Valley Portfolio, found them mortgaging the house. It became a Canadian bestseller within four weeks of its release in 1986.

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Antarctic fur seal pup in derelict bunkhouse, Stromness, South Georgia, near Antarctica.

What followed was a ten-year process of research and development in “how to build a volume that would last for centuries,” according to Pat. “We have long term horizons,” Rosemarie chimes in. “This is all about passion; not about economics.” Yale University’s Arts Library is interested in collecting the team’s archival materials, including the prototypes and details about budgets, concerning production of the masterpieces. The department values the documents for the future.

The Keoughs are environmentalists who understand the need for industry. An image in LABYRINTH SUBLIME depicts rusty, abandoned machine parts taken over by ferns. Pat explains that it shows how resilient nature is. Optimism and the ability to always find beauty are characteristics that stand out in the Keoughs’ work and in their lives.

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Left: The artists proudly display LABYRINTH SUBLIME: The Inside Passage in their home on Salt Spring Island, BC. Right: Hand sewing pages: weaving the Irish linen thread around four linen tapes stretched on an antique sewing frame.

“When you look at images that really inspire you, that really move you,” Pat says, “those are images that come from the heart of the individual that shot it. It’s not something that you just snap instantaneously; you have to be able to recognise it. It has to be part of you to recognise what’s there.”

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Autumn reflections with blue boat.

Pat recounts, a few years ago, he and Rosemarie wanted to capture a picture of a cliff’s reflection in a lake. They spent over a week above the tree line waiting for the water to stop rippling with the wind. “We waited and waited and almost starved to death doing it but, finally, for 30 or 40 seconds, it was still and we got our picture. To this day when I look at it, it’s a beautiful picture,” says Pat.

Rosemarie chimes in “We do look at the world through rose-coloured glasses. Does it come naturally to us? Yes, it does. People tell us that we radiate joy.”

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