The Power of a Photo | Helen Tansey


When I was pregnant with my first child 11 years ago, a spinner of mine offered me a photo shoot with Helen Tansey as a ‘baby gift’.  Little did I know this encounter would result in me meeting a person that would become a dear friend of mine whilst capturing some of the most beautiful moments in my life.  Helen Tansey is a photographer.  She works out of a quaint little studio in Toronto, and has a warm and loving energy that makes you feel instantly at ease in her presence.  Helen is well known for head shots, pregnancy/family shoots and is hired for offsite shoots as well.  Within the last couple of years she took on a new project that really moved me.  She created a series of photo essays called Sundari Woman to chronicle the beauty of the natural aging process of women over 40.  She uses the art of photography to capture a moment that exudes true pure beauty, and makes her subjects feel special and beautiful.  In a time where women have come so far in fighting for their rights in the workplace, within politics and to be treated as equals, Helen showcases the true natural beauty that comes with aging.  I wanted our readers to meet this brilliantly talented Toronto photographer, so I invited her to share parts of her journey with all of us.


What made you fall in love with photography?

Since I was little I dreamt of being a photographer.  I would play make believe in my bedroom that I was a wild life photographer for National Geographic.  Years later when I was modelling in Paris I would always ask the photographers if I could stay and help them process the film and ask them so many questions about what they did as photographers.  I think I have always been a visual person and for me photography is a way to express myself.

What photographer inspires you the most?

I always loved Herb Ritts. His work was always incredible to me and he was able to tell a story with his photography.  I also loved how his photos captured the personally of his subjects.  He had a gift for making people at ease and in return he was able to show a side of that person that no one else was able to.

What is the power of a photo for you?

There are so many styles of photography out there these days and now with smartphones everyone thinks they are a photographer lol… but for me what I love about a photo is when I can feel the subject, that the images makes me feel what the photographer intended.

What has been your journey with health through raising kids and juggling a busy shooting schedule?

Running my own business and having two growing boys is a bit of a juggling act at times.  I used to just skip meals and work outs because I put my kids and work before myself.  That didn’t work for very long and now I make sure to set time aside to work out, prepare meals and have healthy food around me so that when I am rushing around I can always make sure that I am fueling my body with healthy food.  Taking better care of myself with food and exercise makes me a better mom and business woman.  It takes more planning and more discipline but it is so worth it.                                                                              

What would be your dream person to shoot?

If I could meet or take photos of anyone it would be Jane Fonda.  I have loved her all my life and I think she is so inspiring, strong, beautiful and I love that she keeps getting better with age.

Why did you create Sundari Woman?

I created Sundari Woman (Sundari means beautiful in Sanskrit) because I wanted to empower myself and other woman about getting older.  I want to show aging in a beautiful and empowering light so that we can feel good about getting older and not feel that we are less than as we get age.  I want to show wrinkles, grey hair and aging in general as something to be inspired by.  When I am around women who feel good about themselves and embrace aging it strengthens my own self-esteem and gives me permission to age and feel good about it.

How do you feel about aging and how does it impact the way you shoot Sundari Woman?

Getting older has been a beautiful journey for me. I feel that I keep getting better with age and I become more clear about what I need and don’t need in my life so that I can grow older in a healthy and positive way.  I try not to focus too much on my appearance but more on what I can do to nurture my soul. Your soul never gets old so I find if I focus more on that then my soul continues to shine through -  and that is timeless to me. I think this also helps in showing my two boys that there is beauty at any age and to respect women at all stages of our journey.