ART BEAT- OOE Artist Feature: Peter Fowler – Not A Wedding Photographer!

Tanis Browning-Shelp

Photographer Peter Fowler is more than meets the eye. He is an optometrist who has been in practice in Manotick for 46 years. He is a musician in a band, with whom he has performed since his university days. (I am not allowed to talk about that in this feature!) And he is a photographer and Photo Editor for The Mainstreeter.

“I spotted this bride in Santorini, Greece, where weddings have multiple film crews. I was staying just below where the bride was staying. She had escaped to get away from the hubbub—a rare moment of freedom—allowing the breeze to blow her veil.” Photo by Peter Fowler

“I spotted this bride in Santorini, Greece, where weddings have multiple film crews. I was staying just below where the bride was staying. She had escaped to get away from the hubbub—a rare moment of freedom—allowing the breeze to blow her veil.”
Photo by Peter Fowler

In addition to accepting photo assignments—like shooting the recent Canadian women’s soccer team match against New Zealand during their Olympic gold medal Celebration Tour at TD Place—Fowler has also held what he describes as the “honorary position” of Photo Editor for the newspaper’s Travel Photos feature. “For about five years we have invited readers to submit their travel photos and I make the selections for publication,” he explains. “I have been impressed with the quality of the submissions.”

He has also shot several photographic series on Halloween displays, Christmas displays, and the gates of Old Ottawa East, for example. “We have endless subjects to capture in this neighbourhood,” he says. “I love to get on my bike or walk around in search of them. When people ask what I’m up to, I am always proud to say that I am shooting for The Mainstreeter.” Soon, Fowler plans to shoot Old Ottawa East sculptures.

“I captured the veil in the breeze while attending this wedding. The veil is about motion, but the hand on her back is the emotion.” Photo by Peter Fowler

“I captured the veil in the breeze while attending this wedding. The veil is about motion, but the hand on her back is the emotion.”
Photo by Peter Fowler

Fowler was first inspired to pursue photography at age 16 when his sister gave him her old camera. He is self-taught, much like with his music. “My sister always says that I got a guitar, went into my bedroom…and four years later, I came out a guitar player!” He also credits his parents and the way that they critiqued their own photos over years of getting their 35 mm film developed. And, in university, Fowler had several friends who were architecture students at Carleton. “I learned a lot about esthetics from them,” he says. “As Frank Lloyd Wright said: ‘I believe a house is more a home by being a work of art.’” His architecture friends also had a dark room, where Fowler learned from them.

Initially, he resisted making the shift to digital photography. As an optometry student, he studied optics – depth of field, time exposure, light, and colour. Now he loves using the features digital cameras provide. “If colour is not important to one of my photographs, then I make it in black and white, where the focus is more on texture and shadow. Sometimes I use digital effects to impart a feel to an image. Through my work with The Mainstreeter I’ve also learned a lot about which images translate well in a newspaper.”

“This intimate moment between bride and groom took place at a wedding I attended in Hamilton, Ontario. The groom had arrived on a beautiful Palomino horse with a golden veil enshrouding his face. The veil had to be removed for this kiss.” Photo by Peter Fowler

“This intimate moment between bride and groom took place at a wedding I attended in Hamilton, Ontario. The groom had arrived on a beautiful Palomino horse with a golden veil enshrouding his face. The veil had to be removed for this kiss.” Photo by Peter Fowler

In the home he shares with his wife Shaun, one of their dining room walls forms an expansive photo gallery. Fowler changes out the photographs often. Currently, the gallery’s theme is brides. “This particular collection of photos perhaps makes me look like a wedding photographer, but that is not the case,” he says. “I have taken photos of brides on our journeys about the world simply because of the beauty and happiness their days radiate. They almost never know of my presence.”

Fowler has created several books of photographs on various themes, such as bridges, fog, Ottawa, and two wheels. He does not shape his experiences and travel around particular themes. “The themes themselves emerge from the life I am living,” he says.

According to The Mainstreeter Editor Lorne Abugov, Peter’s “dining room gallery” has been a source of great pleasure for Peter’s friends and family over the years.

“The bride chasing the rainbow was in Winkler, Manitoba. Who could resist taking her photo? It was a country wedding. They went out into a field to take photographs after the ceremony. And this was a completely spontaneous moment!” Photo by Peter Fowler

“The bride chasing the rainbow was in Winkler, Manitoba. Who could resist taking her photo? It was a country wedding. They went out into a field to take photographs after the ceremony. And this was a completely spontaneous moment!” Photo by Peter Fowler

“Peter’s thematic approach to photography is more than just a handy way of sorting and exhibiting his photos. I think Peter enjoys seeking commonalities and differences across cultures and continents, in people, in places, and in public and private settings.” Abugov says. “Given his portfolio of over 17,000 images, and his tendency to compare and contrast his subject matter over space and time, he has virtually endless capability to mount thematic exhibits on that wall gallery!” In the photo captions in this article,

Fowler shares the stories behind some of the photographs in that gallery. “None of these subjects were posing for me,” he clarifies.

More recently, Fowler has been exploring the art of video making. During COVID, he created a video about the destruction of the Chapel wing of the Deschâtelets Building. “I have begun learning more about video production and I am really enjoying this new creative chapter!”

Fowler exhibited a collection of his photographs as part of the 2021 OOE ArtTour. To see more of his work, email editor@mainstreeter.ca with the subject line “Peter Fowler”.

Author Tanis Browning-Shelp (http://www.browning-shelp.com) pens her Maryn O’Brien Young Adult Fiction series, published by Dog-Eared Books, from her home in Old Ottawa East. Contact tanis@browning-shelp.com if you have information about artists or art events that you believe would enrich our community members’ lives.

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