Kara O’Keefe Shoots Newfoundland

Kara O’Keefe is a local pharmacist and photographer from St. Phillips. She has always enjoyed taking photos and can remember receiving her first camera- a 35mm Canon Sure Shot Owl- at the age of 8. O’Keefe has a deep love and appreciation for Newfoundland, its heritage, and its people, as evidenced by the photos on her Instagram account. The Racket chatted with O’Keefe about photography, Newfoundland and her social media influence.

Photo courtesy of Kara O’Keefe.

Photo courtesy of Kara O’Keefe.

“When I was 16 I asked for a DSLR for Christmas and received a Nikon D40,” recounted O’Keefe via email. “I taught myself how to use it by turning the camera onto manual mode and playing with the settings.” Perhaps wanting to foster her daughter’s newfound interest, O’Keefe’s mother allowed her to start using the Canon AE-1, which she had received from her father as a gift in the 1970s.

“[That camera] forced me to become familiar with the intricacies of taking a photo. With film, you only get one chance to take the photo you set out to capture,” said O’Keefe. “I spent many hours after school driving around with my friends Jill and Catherine practicing to take photos. Jill and I took the photos and Catherine modelling. I think half of my allowance and money from my part-time job went towards developing film and the extra gas we used driving around various parts of the metro area chasing ‘golden hour’,”. The girls became very active in the Flickr community – an online photo sharing website and met a lot of other young photographers who inspired O’Keefe.

The self-taught photographer likes to shoot nature and landscape. “I also really enjoy being able to incorporate people into nature,” said O’Keefe. “Incorporating people into nature photography has a way of making you realize the depth and beauty of our surroundings.”

Photo courtesy of Kara O’Keefe.

Photo courtesy of Kara O’Keefe.

One of her favourite photos that she has shot was of pack ice surrounding Bell Island. “I was lucky enough to catch four people walking across the cliff at this time, and I think it really sets the photo,” said O’Keefe. “The juxtaposition of the people above the vast ocean really puts things into perspective. I also enjoy capturing the beauty in my natural surroundings. I think photography has given me the ability to appreciate my surroundings, whether it’s an old house, ice hanging off of the cliffs, or the view driving out the highway.” O’Keefe prefers to shoot on foggy, grey days, and called fog “honest”. “Newfoundland is a foggy, rugged place and I want to portray it in an honest and authentic way,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Kara O’Keefe.

Photo courtesy of Kara O’Keefe.

We were curious as to what O’Keefe would consider her dream shoot, and she told us that was a difficult question to answer. “I would love to visit the Torngat Mountains in Labrador,” she said.  Another dream would be to photograph Western Brook from the Long Range Traverse trail in Gros Morne though she admitted needing to brush up my hiking skills for this. “Some other places on my list include Iceland and Norway,” she added. O’Keefe, who said she has been luckily enough to travel extensively through Germany and even considers it a second home, wants to return in order to shoot some of the country’s castles in Germany.

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O’Keefe’s Instagram profile lists her as a “pharmacist, photographer, Newfoundlander” and we asked her if she would ever want to become a fulltime photographer. “I will always be a pharmacist,” she said. “I very much like the balance which pharmacy and photography allow me. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a very vocal and passionate pharmacist.” O’Keefe is currently pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy at MUN and said being a pharmacist allows her to foster a science-minded aspect of herself that encourages providing care to others, and advocacy while photography allows her to explore her creative side. “When I am taking photos, I do not have to take heed of anyone but myself,” she said.

O’Keefe has quite the impressive following on Instagram but was quick to point out that having an impressive following is all based on perspective. “My favourite photographers have many more followers than myself so I never really viewed the number as ‘impressive’,” she said. “I am, however, very grateful to the people who support me online! Many of my followers are simply friends or acquaintances.”

Since becoming involved with local markets like Etsy St. John’s, and Some Good Market, the number of followers has increased. “St. John’s has a very rich arts community and people are very eager to support each other,” said O’Keefe. “As we all know, Newfoundland is very tight-knit, reaching out to those involved in arts is a great way to make connections and get feedback on your work. As a photographer or artist, I feel it’s important to support and thank those who support you – whether that’s online or in person. I do my best to respond to anyone who reaches out to me. I don’t consider myself an influencer – I think I have a long way to go before I achieve that.”

Influencer or not, you can tell that O’Keefe puts her heart into her work, whether that is photography or pharmacy and it is refreshing to see.

You can follow Kara O’Keefe on Instagram @karaokeefe.