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How did your years as a professional model inspire you to transition from being in front of the camera to behind the lens?

I enjoyed my years of modelling.  I travelled and got to see the world.  But I was always much more interested in what the photographers were doing.  So, after photoshoots, I would ask if I could stay and help them process the film.  I would ask them questions.  Not sure what it was, but I found it so much more interesting.  So when I decided to get out of modelling, I went to work for a photographer for a little while and I would shoot for fun.

My years doing modelling helped me bring something to my photography as I know what it is like to be on the other side.  I know what it is like to feel awkward.  I also know that there are photographers that I would work with that would make me feel so good and I would get great photos, and then there were horrible photographers, would not help you at all.  You would leave the photoshoot going what was that?  That was uncomfortable.

The modelling helped me understand what it is like to be on the other side.  For me, my favourite directors are actors and vice versa.  You are well rounded and have a better idea of the industry.

What is your shooting style?

I do portraits, actors, families, kids, and corporate shoots.

What I try to do with my photos is to capture the essence of that person.  I don’t want it to be someone just sitting there smiling and it looks fake.  I want it to be that when you look at the photo you get a feeling of that person.

 How did you come up with the idea for your book ‘Sundari Women’?

As I was ageing, I felt that the messages out there towards women about ageing weren’t positive.  It was all about mind your wrinkles, use this cream to look younger, dye your hair.  All those things are fine, but I think it is also really important that we be comfortable with ourselves as we age and don’t feel because we have wrinkles or because we are getting older that we are not valued or not attractive.

As an artist, I thought, how can I do something about this – why don’t I take pictures?  Then I thought what if I take pictures and have women share their wisdom about ageing to go along with it to help inspire women to feel good.

For me, when I see an older woman like Lauren Hutton or my friends getting older, I think wow, you make me feel good about the idea about getting older.  We need to have better role models as we age including for younger women.  I meet twenty-year-olds who are afraid to get older.  To me, it’s a gift to get older.

 Favourite thing about being a photographer?

All the people I get to meet.  I meet so many interesting, incredible people and I learn from them.  It is just the best part of what I do.

If you could speak to your younger self, just starting out, what advice would you give her?

Be brave, be fabulous, go for it.  Don’t play small so other people are going to be comfortable.

When I started in the industry because I was young and I was a woman I felt I was not respected as much.  I would just smile, be very shy and polite.  I wish I had believed in myself more and thought, you know what, if I am too much for you then that’s fine but I am going to continue to be me and do my stuff.

 What’s the most rewarding thing about running your own business?

For me the most rewarding was when I had my two boys I was still able to have my business.  I could have my kids and take care of them between my sessions.  I could start my day after I dropped them off at school and finish at 3:30 pm to be there to pick them up from school.

I love being a mother and my boys mean the world to me.  I love that I have a profession where I can make my own hours, still be creative, still make money.  I can show my boys it is important that women have their own businesses, that women are entrepreneurs, they can take care of themselves but I can also be there as a mother for them.

 To what do you attribute your success?

I generally love what I do.  I care about what I do and I care about my clients.  If someone shoots with me, I want them to feel good when they leave the studio.  Of course, I want them to have great photos, but also want them to have a positive experience.

 What impact has Covid-19 had on your business?

I didn’t work for almost three months.  I’m fortunate because I own my studio building.  Everybody is in the same boat it’s not like it is just me.  I took that time to take care of myself and my family.

Once I got the okay to start shooting I started booking up again which is wonderful.  I photograph a lot of actors, and the acting industry has been hit very hard.  Slowly that is coming back.

I’m just trying to focus on what’s coming to me and be appreciative of it and the other stuff I cannot do anything about it.  I have to trust that everything will be okay as it’s out of my control.

Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?

I’m continuing to grow with it.  I’m branching out – I’m doing a podcast now which I’m enjoying.

I want to empower women and have a platform where I can shed light on other people and help them.

Visit Helen Tansey Photography on the web www.sundariphotography.com and follow her on Instagram @helentanseyphotography

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