While not a name many are familiar with Anne Girling is an interesting character in Victoria’s local history. I came across her name on Saanich archives while doing research about the Swan Lake area. The ‘Girling Collection’ contained hundreds of photos taken by Anne of the area. The photos were taken between 1912 and 1930, a time when few people had access to a camera, especially women. I became curious as to who the woman was and why she took so many photos of the neighbourhood I now reside in. Through further research I found out that Anne Alice Girling was born in Suffolk, England in 1880. She studied photography at Woolwich Polytechnic before moving to Canada with her parents and seven siblings on October 4, 1912. The family established a small hobby farm between Ralph Street and the lake, bordered by Lancaster Road to the west. Anne spent her life to experiment with different photography techniques, focusing on composition and lighting. In the families home, she kept her a darkroom and developed 916 images including glass frame negatives, film negatives and prints. The subjects of her work were the family’s daily life at their home on Swan Lake, portraits of her siblings, nature studies drawn from the surrounding landscape, still-life images and pictures of Saanich and Victoria. Anne spent her life as a single woman, with close family bonds, living with family members in Victoria until her death in 1953. In the 1960’s, demolition of Anne’s family home on Finnerty road almost destroyed her collection. Photographic historian Lindsay Lambert, rescued the materials and preserved them for more than 30 years. In 2008, Mr. Lambert generously donated the collection to Saanich Archives. For a tiny woman of just 4 ft 7”, and left a big legacy as an artist and historian, that deserves to be recognized.
See some work from Anne’s Swan Lake Collection here: https://www.saanich.ca/assets/Parks~Recreation~and~Community~Services/Documents/Archives~Collections~and~Research/Girling%20Gallery_swan%20lake.pdf
North, N. (2012, October 18) Saanich, through the eyes of Anne. Victoria News. https://www.vicnews.com/news/saanich-through-the-eyes-of-anne/
District of Saanich (2021) Anne Alice Girling (1880-1953). https://www.saanich.ca/EN/main/community/archives/exhibits/anne-alice-girling-1880-1953.htm