February 11, 2022 - Photographer Kate Seaborne holds a teacup in an Oak Bay back alley for a Tea With feature.  Don Denton photo

Tea with photographer Kate Seaborne

Artist creates Oak Bay Back Alley photo series

  • Apr. 1, 2022 8:30 a.m.

How did you get to Oak Bay?

My husband and I were working at the University of Victoria, and in the spring of 1986 we began looking for a house in Oak Bay. We fell for a little 1912-ish cottage with wonderful views of McNeill Bay and the Olympic Mountains and bought it in an instant. It needed lots of remodelling and adding onto, and luckily we had friends who were builders and connected us to a great designer, Nigel Banks. We completed the renovation on the cottage over that summer, moved in and then added onto it again about five years later. Occasionally we think about the benefits of a newer house but we can’t tear ourselves away from the views and the terraced garden.

What do you love most about living in Oak Bay?

I love the distinctly different neighbourhoods, the easy access to the Garry oak parks and meadows, and the “walkability” of this community.

How did you get into photography?

My father was a wonderful amateur photographer and, at quite an early age, he gave me a Brownie camera to play with. He was interested in portraiture and landscapes and was also fascinated with birds and would often take me with him on “shoots,” which I thought was a terrific treat. When I was a teenager, he gave me his Leica IIIc camera and taught me how to use his darkroom. I worked with that Leica until I bought my first camera, an Olympus OM-1, which I used for years to make portraits, landscapes and street images.

How does photography impact your life?

I get great pleasure from the process of making photographic images. For me, it’s about pausing, paying attention to what I’m seeing and “sinking” into the experience of seeing it from several viewpoints. If I’m lucky and don’t get distracted during the process, I can make an image that both captures the subject and conveys my feelings about it.

What drew you to photograph Oak Bay alleys?

This project began in the spring of 2016 when I enrolled in an urban photography course offered by the Vancouver Island School of Art. For this course, “urban photography” was defined as representing urban spaces and the lives of those living, working and moving through these spaces.

Prior to this course, I had been making photographs of domestic spaces and the life lived in them. So for the course’s major project, I decided to extend this interest by documenting my neighbourhood’s back lanes, where private, domestic life intersects with public space, often in unguarded or unconscious ways. These alleys are familiar places to me because they serve as alternate walking routes to and from Oak Bay Village or as extensions to rambles around my immediate neighbourhood.

When I finished the course, I realized that I had a much bigger photography project to pursue and continued shooting in the laneways of South Oak Bay through to the spring of 2019. During that period, I met an enormous number of South Oak Bay residents, some welcoming and some suspicious, while shooting in the alleys. Eventually, with the help of many dear friends and family members, I put together a book of selected images of these public spaces in private locations. And, now I’m ready to explore the alleys in the rest of the municipality!

What brings you joy?

A warm croissant from Ottavio with Glenlivet-flavoured marmalade made by Cathy, my dear friend and neighbour.

ArtPhotography