Sunday, May 3, 2020

The surprise Mothers Day photoshoot we did last week!

Hey friends!

It was such an honour to be a part of this years Mothers Day campaign for Saben - New Zealand’s premium leather handbag and accessories label. 

Below are a few photos from the shoot but here is a link to the full blog on their site.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

A love letter to Uganda

 Dear Uganda, 

Ten years ago, Tim and I touched down for the very first time here in The Pearl of Africa. We were wide-eyed, excited, na├»ve, ready to learn and keen to experience all your beautiful country had to offer. After an initial 5 month volunteer stint we headed back to New Zealand promising to each other that we’d come back to live in 3 years’ time. We moved here indefinitely in January 2014 and have been here ever since. In a couple of days, we’ll be leaving to move back to New Zealand. I want, and, quite frankly, need, to process some of those feelings with you.

If I’m honest, I’d tell you that before I moved to Uganda I thought I would be “giving up a lot”. Missionary/aid worker style. “Sacrificing” a lot. And in some ways I was. But in most ways I wasn’t.

I thought I was giving up my lovely house in New Zealand. Instead, you and God gave us the best house we could ever have wished for complete with a huge yard – perfect for our growing brood of children. Speaking of children, I thought I was giving up my chance to have children. And yet literally weeks after arriving in country our paths intersected with the most precious little girl who went on to become our daughter. Later on a son followed.  I thought I was giving up my dream job and yet somehow the jobs we both have right now are the best thing ever. We thought we were giving up a wonderful group of friends that deeply cared about us and had known us decades. Instead, we found  those relationships continued to grow albeit across the oceans! And an equally special group of friends came into our lives and walked side by side with us through our toughest seasons yet.  

We thought we were giving up our families. And that one, we were. For the last six years our families have patiently and graciously waited on the sidelines watching through Facebook and Facetime and once yearly visits to see their grandchildren and us in the same room. 

I thought I was giving up shopping. And I was. But, instead I found ways to “manage”. Working with local artisans to create beautiful goods, getting down on my hands and knees to rummage through second hand piles at the downtown markets, going to Dubai once a year to get my “fix” and being a regular at expat garage sales. Best yet though was realising that simplicity and minimalism are my new MO (modus operandi) and I don’t need that stuff to make me happy.  In saying that, I’m really looking forward to hitting up Kmart when I’m back in NZ. Hey, I’m being honest, right?

Of course there’s been challenging times too. The rat in my bed wrapped around Eva’s head drinking milk that had fallen onto the foam mattress. The countless snakes. The police that pull us over looking for bribes. Getting pneumonia and malaria. The power company we have on speed dial because EVERY. SINGLE. DANG. WEEK there’s an issue. The water company that constantly likes to turn off water when we have large numbers of people over for a party. The burglars that stole from us. The people that scammed us. The lies we’ve been told. Immigration dramas, roads that put your neck out they’re so bumpy and pollution levels so high its dangerous to go outside.  You’ve legit driven me crazy sometimes. Often times.

But all of that is NOTHING in comparison to what you’ve given  me.  My babies. My incredible friends. The grandmother to my children, (Jane, our househelper), Opportunities to serve people in big and small ways.  The best Indian (ironic, I know) food in the world. A community of people we absolutely adore.

Uganda, (and I’m crying now), thank you. Thank you for giving me some of the best years of my life to date. You are the reason I became a Mother. There is nothing I can do to repay you for that. All three of my children have danced on your soil and grown up under your sun and leant to walk and talk on the mis-matched tiled floors of this beautiful home. 
In just a few short days the time will come to put a full stop on our time here. Our son, Maz needs to have a significant heart operation and we know just the place to help – New Zealand. It’ll be the tenth time I’ve moved internationally and the 11th time Tim has. We’re ready to put down some roots for a while.

But we’ll be back to visit I promise.  Tim’s here for a work visit twice next year and I’ll be touching down again around May.  We hope to bring the kids back in a few years too. Because there’s nowhere quite like Uganda. Nowhere.

With all our love and affection,
Tim, Helen, Hope, Eva and Maz

Friday, February 14, 2020

Kampala Life Hacks:

Our family lived in Uganda for 6 years -  so as my parting gift I thought it might be helpful to open up our little black book of contacts. Please note, this information is current as at February 2020.

American Food – Verity Stores in Bugolobi is a fabulous place to go for American treats.  Plot 10-12 Mulwana Road, Industrial Area, Kampala 0750 324 627 or
Artists –
I love supporting local artists that do beautiful work. Two I’ve worked with on multiple pieces are Mahony 0752543136 and Ricky 0782704083 or 0701033068
Beauty – Beatrice does waxing 0772 471 385 and Rona does eyelash extensions 0778 444 386.

Canvas Prints –
Decorating your home in Kampala is challenging at the best of times. Kenneth 0782 369 828 is the best person to print anything you need onto canvas. He also prints photographs. His email Is  and he delivers.
Clothes – It’s hard to find clothes for yourself and kids in Kampala. If you don’t want to rummage through bargains at a local market I can recommend Sarah at Kampala Dresses who scouts Owino for you and sells the dresses at 30k each. You can find her on Facebook. Chloe’s Closet  0784 814 748 is the best one to go to for high end designer ware.  And in a pinch I visit Mr. Price at Acacia Mall or Pep in Kabalagala.
Counselling Services – Tumaini Kampala
– Robert is on time, reliable and charges a fair price 90k from Kansanga to the Airport. He’s also picked me up from Tanzania before and driven me back. Day rate should be 200k. 0772 439 870
Doctors – Our entire family uses The Clinic at Bugolobi Village Mall 0392 177 283 . If the issue is for a child under 2 I would highly recommend Doctor Michael at Nakasero Annex.
– The best florist in town is 1921 Lifestyle 0772 419 295. They deliver and import their gorgeous flowers and are the next level up if you’re looking for something better than the 10k variety at the supermarket.  
Framing –Kenneth (mentioned under canvas) does framing but you can also contact Tagaframe or visit their workshop in Kismenti. Taga Nuwagaba, 0772 500 286 or
Food – For the best donuts and cinnamon rolls you need to know about Simply Donuts. You can find them on Facebook. They deliver. If you need apples or absolutely delicious spaghetti sauce, Jane Mutesi is your go to girl. 0777 358 437. For the best Indian food, it’s got to be Khazana Verandah in Muyenga. For the best steak it’s Cantina Divino in Kololo.
Fumigation – We use Eco Nation 0774 623 044
Furniture Maker  - Our huge black couch was made by Didas Kamugisha , Namuwongo 0782171789 or 0705586755
Glass Guy – Kaja makes drinking glasses out of old wine bottles. They are 4-5k each compared to 10k at Good Glass. His “store” is next to Prifare on Kiwafu Road. 0793383829.
Gymanstics – Ben is a wonderful coach. He comes to our home during the school holidays and does lessons for the kids.  10-15k each. 0776548399.
Hairdresser – Erika at Mirror Salon is fabulous at cutting every type of hair. Her salon on Tank Hill is relaxing and peaceful. 0785 528 294. Approximately 70-80k for a wash, cut, blow dry
Masseuse – Bosco is the BEST massage/physio therapist I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. 0752 263 227. He comes to your home with his own table – you provide the towels/sheets and it’s 80k for an hour of getting those knots out and leaving you healthier than when you began.
Mosquito Net –
Wilbur specialises in gorgeous safari style tie up mosquito nets. They are expensive but they are beautiful – 0785 231 157.
– Marvin has been great to our family. 0777140900.
- For live music there’s no one better than Herbet Ssensamba  - 0702 457 125
Pedicure – Bishop is HANDS DOWN the best pedicure man in the city! He comes to your house, brings all the items he needs and is clean, tidy and calm to work with. 0777028683.
Playground –
Our kids are obsessed with Prifare on Kiwafu Road in Kansanga. 0781706543.
– Karibu Media specialises in family photographs (they also do interiors, schools, NGO etc) and do a fabulous job. 0773 320 625
Rugs – Villa Kololo (Kismenti) and Mr Price (Acacia Mall)
Ugandan Hair – We love Prossy, she comes to the house, does my daughters hair in braids or twists and charges a fair price.  0774338709.
Wood Engraver – Jude - 0392886526 or 0772 459 129

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Our home in Uganda - Homestyle Magazine

Earlier this year the amazing team at Homestyle Magazine asked if we would open the doors of our home in Uganda to their readers. Of course, the answer was yes!

You can read the beautiful story and see the images here. 
But if you just want to see some of my favorite photos of our home, I've popped them down below for you. Much love, Helen

Monday, October 21, 2019

Our family is moving

Lately we’ve been a little quiet on social media and that’s because we’ve been processing some big life decisions! Namely, our family is moving back to New Zealand this Christmas.

Why? Three reasons:

1) We found out earlier this year that our son, Maz, needs to have open heart surgery for multiple issues he has with his heart/lungs. This was a surprise for us and really hard to hear. We’ve been thinking lots, praying hard and weighing up the different options for months. Finally, we ended up landing on moving back to Auckland, New Zealand - indefinitely.

2) Both of our jobs recently offered us roles back in NZ starting Jan 2020. Tim has accepted an offer with Tutapona that will see him as the Vice President of Global Programs for Tutapona. He will be overseeing the Country Directors/Project managers in Uganda, Iraq and Lebanon as well as developing Tutapona’s Australasia funding base. I will be working part time at Tearfund leading their Creative Team and still doing humanitarian photography/storytelling.

3) All up, we’ve been living in Uganda for a total of 6 years. If we were to include Dubai, it’d be 7 years overseas. Not to mention that Tim and I both spent the majority of our childhood years overseas (him in Africa and me in the USA and Australia). Both of us noticed when we went home this Christmas that things were maybe starting to “shift” in us. Can I be really honest? The wear and tear of living apart from family and our community back in NZ was taxing us. The challenges of living in a developing country that was not our “home” were starting to show. Higher than healthy stress levels, irritations over little things and building frustration. Neither of us would ever want to leave Uganda bitter or resentful. So we accepted these promptings as little signposts that perhaps a change was coming. We want to leave how we feel now. Deeply grateful, in love with this country and her people but also excited for a new chapter. Not burnt-out or cynical. Just a feeling, backed up with many heartfelt prayers that our season here is coming to a close and the timing feels right.

How are we feeling?

Mixed. Really mixed. Sad to leave the country that has given us so much. Our babies, dream jobs, an unbelievably rich in friendship community. Our beautiful home, a fabulous school, a wonderful church and a lifestyle that means daily in-person chats with your besties is a given. Weather that delights us and a perspective on poverty that haunts us.

Also, super excited to have our families and close friends in NZ get to know our kids and to be able to make everyday memories together. Excited for good food, malls, and beaches. Excited for a change but grateful we get to keep the biggest part of our lives in Uganda – our work. Excited for the next chapter.

Tim will be back in Uganda twice a year and I’ll be back about once a year. That feels really good to have down on the internet in black and white.

Talk soon,

*Photos by Candice Lassey* 

Monday, September 9, 2019

7 FAQs about being a Humanitarian Photographer and Storyteller

Over the past few years I’ve been receiving a reasonable amount of messages from people that would like to know a bit more about humanitarian photography and storytelling as a career. I love hearing from you - what an honour! During this particular season of life though, it’s hard to reply to every single one in depth like I’d like to – so here goes! My attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions via blog. Please feel free to reach out if there is anything else I’ve forgotten!

1. How did you get into humanitarian photography/storytelling?
I remember having an interest in photography as young as 7 years of age. I used to feel like something couldn’t be fully remembered unless it was captured – frozen forever in time by the click of a finger. By the time I reached high school I’d had a few more of those, “have to grab it” moments and so decided to take photography as one of my options. It was there I learnt the art of using a film camera and developing my own images in the Darkroom. I graduated from university 14 years ago with a Bachelor of Communication Studies majoring in Public Relations and Advertising Creativity. At first, I did fashion, beauty and lifestyle PR for agencies and worked in both New Zealand and Dubai. Then, in 2010 my husband and I moved to Uganda and I worked “in-house” for the first time. I found the experience so rewarding and loved getting to know and focus on one brand.

During that season in Uganda, I met two people that changed the course of my life forever. Firstly, a former child soldier called Ivan, and secondly, my sponsor child Whilifred. When I got home to New Zealand I began volunteering with Tearfund/Compassion and a year later was offered the Media and Communications Manager role. Just before I started, I did two six week hobby courses on photography that were really significant in teaching me about the digital age of capturing images.  I had switched from fashion weeks to famines and am forever grateful I did.  

2. How did it all begin?
My first day on the job for Tearfund was 8 years ago in Kolkata, India. I was there to meet with some of the 2 million kids in our care through child sponsorship and to meet with an organisation doing undercover anti-trafficking work. The next week, my boss had a family emergency and had to race back to New Zealand. Before she left she looked me up and down and asked if I would be willing to go into Bangladesh to capture some stories and images for Tearfund’ s next campaign.  I said yes. The next day I found myself on a flight to Dakar where I landed into a country that was mid coup and swarming with UN peacekeeping troops before being driven 8 hours into the depths of the jungle.  In Bangladesh I showered with a cup and a bucket, slept in a house with no door at the entrance or to my bedroom and was the only white person some of our 30,000 micro enterprise beneficiaries had ever seen.

That first trip was the beginning of what would be the adventure of a lifetime. Since then I have had almost every immunisation on the planet for every possible tropical disease. I’ve travelled to 37 countries and worked for over 50 incredible NGO’s, charities and non-profits both photographing and interviewing the people that benefit from those programmes. My work has taken me to some of the most challenging environments documenting famine, refugee settlements, post war environments, child sponsorship, micro-enterprise, trauma counselling and disaster zones. My job is to bring the amazing work of these organisations to life.

3.How did you jump from working in–house to going freelance?
After three years at Tearfund, Tim was offered a job back in Uganda. I was grateful to work out an arrangement where I would stay on with Tearfund/Compassion part time and work from the field. This is still my arrangement to this day. Being based in the field meant having a lot more opportunities to travel (cost effectively) thrown my way. It also caught the attention of the Integral Alliance (a network of 27 aid and development agencies). A couple of them started contacting me to see if I might have capacity to photograph/tell stories for them. I did! After working for about 10 different NGO’s I decided I should probably get a bit more professional and set up a website. Over the last six years living here in Uganda it’s been incredible to network with a huge range of incredible organisations – most of whom are looking for help to bring their work to living colour. Because I am someone with a Western eye that lives locally here in Uganda, the organisation doesn’t have to pay $1500-2000 in flights just to get me to the location. I mainly travel to Africa/Middle East and there is so much work to do that I take on about 1 in every 3 jobs offered.

4. What do you shoot with?
I own a Canon 5d and Canon 6d and shoot with both most trips.
I own a 24-105mm Canon lens, 50 mm Portrait Canon lens, 16-30mm Wide Angle Canon Lens and a 70-300 Tamron telephoto lens.

PLEASE KNOW, I am the most low-tech photographer you will ever meet. I don’t own a flash, reflector, ND filters or any fancy equipment
. I’ve used the same camera for almost 5 years and the last time I bought a new lens was 2 years ago. I do this for a reason. It’s because I want things to look as real as possible. I don’t want to manufacture or over compensate for what is naturally there.  I don’t want things to feel fake, overly posed or overly edited.  I want to fly under the radar wherever I go just a small backpack.

5.Advice for anyone wanting to get into this line of work?
  1. Hone your craft. I did two six-week night courses at a university for two nights a week and it was the best investment I ever made. My lecturer taught me how to solve the technical problems I’d been having and that honestly set me free when I first started out! Even to this day I am consciously trying to get better year on year and take active steps to do so.
  2. Study/Learn something wider than just photography. It would be a rare NGO/non-profit/charity that would be hiring a  full time “photographer” in-house. They would probably be hiring a Creative Manager or a Communications Specialist in which case photography might be one of the core competencies. Next to photography, I’d say that being a good writer would be top of the list for many of these organisations.
  3. If you only want to go freelance consider having a ‘core’ business ie:family photography and then doing humanitarian stuff on the side to relieve pressure.
  4. Give of your time. Find a local NGO in your community that might benefit from having a gift of some complimentary photography. Start there and if you like it, perhaps try offering that to a smaller NGO overseas that you have an existing relationship with.
  5. Consider living in a developing country – this has been huge for me. The cost of flying a Westerner from the USA or Australia to a developing nation is astronomical. It helps a lot to take that part out of the equation.

6. What’s it really like?
I’ve suffered near burnout, got pneumonia, gained weight, lost weight, got more wrinkles and grey hair than I should and had a lot of sun damage done to my face. I spend myself, but I do it for a cause I believe worth spending myself on. What keeps me doing this kind of work is primarily my faith in a God that asks us to be his hands and feet on the earth. A God that cares deeply for this heaving mess of humanity. I’ve never taken one photo or story for granted and I am in a constant state of prayer in the field as I try my hardest to bestow dignity whilst showing tremendous human need. am forever grateful to be used to raise awareness and much needed funds for those that truly need it. There’s nothing I would rather do. I am humbled beyond belief to be entrusted to do it.

7. Does it pay well?
No. If you want to get rich, this is not the field to do it. I work for charities that have to account for every single dollar that goes out the door. Not only that, but I WANT every single dollar possible to go to their beneficiaries who need it far more than me. I have tried really hard to find a personal balance for me where I feel like I’m being paid a fair wage for the work I’m doing (and it’s worth it to be away from my kids) whilst also feeling like I’m not ripping anybody off. But then, why settle for cash when joy is on the line.