Eye Spy at Bon Voyage

Traveling from Africa to Australia has never been easier than through the works of Catherine Allen at her travel photography exposition in Café Bon Voyage on Santa Isabel.

Catherine Allen (Center)
Catherine Allen (Center)

Café Bon Voyage, a travel-themed café tucked behind a row of boutiques opening onto a vibrant atrium, perfectly complements the theme of the exhibit. The Café features a stunning full wall map, travel books for any country you desire to see and a great latte for only CP $1.000 (US $2.09). The Café also hosts a cultural exchange event on Thursday nights, "Chile by Non-Chileans." The event encourages conversations between Chileans and foreigners. Locals take the opportunity to practice their English, while foreigners enjoy an insider's perspective on Chile.

Allen, also known by her moniker Eye Spy Cat, was kind enough to give me a behind the scenes look into what it takes to be a traveling photographer as I enjoyed a cup of coffee on the patio.

Cafe Bon Voyage
Cafe Bon Voyage

We began considering some of her work: a cityscape contorted through the glass of a light bulb and a black and white portrait of Marilyn Monroe plastered on the side of a building, before finally arriving at her favorite, the “Basket Man.”

What’s the appeal?

“Sometimes there’re just things you can’t walk past,” she says. And, according to Allen, that’s a big part of what goes on behind the lens. The intangible elements make or break her works of art. Elaborating, she explains that when traveling, it’s the natural moments that pique her interest and retain her attention. Artificial compositions, on the other hand, lack intrigue. She’s not looking for a manufactured moment, shunning poses and formulaic compositions for the vibrancy of real travel photography.

By means of example, she tells me a story of one artisan vendor she wanted to photograph who, after requesting his permission to take the picture, began to tidy his stand. “Exactly what I didn’t want!”

The Exhibit
The Exhibit

You can see this bias in her work. The Eye Spy Cat pieces do not focus on landmarks and well-known sites, shots that have already been done to death. Instead, they capture the smallest of details, the details that people often forget, all coming together to form a complete and honest image of a country. This honesty is what makes her pictures powerful.

As Eye Spy Cat reminds us, each small instance, whether it be a man in the process of making a basket, or the way a mobile home is parked, makes traveling a unique experience.

With plans to stay in Santiago for the foreseeable future, or at least basing herself between here and Buenos Aires, Allen is hesitant on how being tied to one region might affect her travel photography. Luckily, she also has a penchant for fashion photography, already shooting for several designers in Santiago.

Before we parted ways, I asked if she had any advice for budding travel photographers. “Always, always have your camera. Always.”

The full name of the exhibit is “Eye Spy Cat Fotographía, Una Exposición de Paisajes.” You can visit it at Café Bon Voyage, Santa Isabel 0151 (Metro Santa Isabel, Line 5).

To see more of the artist’s work, visit www.EyeSpyCat.co.uk.

Or check the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/EyeSpyCat

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