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Portraits of empowering tattooed women by Helena Darling

These photographs of tattooed women tell a powerful tale…

Helena Darling is a tattooist from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’ve interviewed her previously for tattoo magazines, featuring her amazingly colourful designs. But it’s not just her vibrant tattoos that are empowering and reflective, but her many other artistic projects too…

Her photos of tattooed women have a lot to say… about feminism, tattoos, the world today, and they also send out a message about this creative individual’s beautifully unique attitude towards art and people.

After recently spotting her work in witchcraft magazine Sabat, I was dying to share her photos – and truly inspiring words – with you all. As women currently march together all over the world, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time for you to hear the roars of the strong subjects in these photographs. I’m going to pipe down, and let Helena do the talking.


Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Karli, photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Beccy: I absolutely love your tattoo work, but would like to tell Inkluded readers about your photography. What do you like to photograph and why?

Helena: Thank you so much. Tattooing is my life and comes first but recently I picked up a camera again after almost 10 years. I was seeing an alarming amount of body dysmorphia going on with my beautiful group of friends and wanted to show them how they looked through my eyes – flawless, raw, powerful and inspiring.   

I wanted to give these tattooed women, and men, some documentation of their youth and bodies, so when they look back (in weeks, years, or decades to come) they will see how beautiful they are and always have that reminder. I love taking photos of people. I love taking photos specifically of women who need the encouragement to see what a gift their bodies are.

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Elle Munster, photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Megan MacDonald, photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Beccy: What does it mean to photograph bodies covered in tattoos?

Helena: I really have a struggle with clothes. I hate shopping. Fashion is not in my field of understanding and I usually dress like a bag lady. When I try to take portrait or character photos of people with clothes on, it usually comes across pretty cheesy, or catalog. Taking photos of tattooed women is a great way of taking nude photos of people who don’t come off as looking completely nude. Tattoos give a vulnerable but protected look to the human body, they add to the already varying individuality of each photo. I have also been in the tattoo industry for more than half my life. To capture tattooed people means to photograph my closest friends, family, clients and good experiences. I am documenting my life and the people I love and find most beautiful in it.

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Elle Munster, photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Beccy: I love your evocation of all things witchcraft. Why do you choose to photograph this world? 

Helena: My relationship with witchcraft is a pretty logical one. I see modern covens as a gathering of empowering people. People who practice a positive mentality and who aim to uplift, support and encourage each other into having a good quality of life. It’s about practicing peace and being respectful of nature and open to constant education.   

When I started in the tattoo industry it felt like a real boys’ club. I was often reminded by male peers that I had no place in it. I am seeing many feminine artists identify as ‘witch’ as a way to reflect on the struggles that people who identify as ‘feminine’ have always felt. Witchcraft is inclusive – an embodiment of the female spirit and form.  

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Beccy: And what about your tattoos and their connections to witchcraft?

Helena: I definitely love occult inspired tattoos and imagery and would love opportunities to do more. My tattooing is definitely aimed to satisfy the needs of my clients’ visions more than mine, but if anyone is looking for witchy art, I am always looking to do more!

Beccy: What are some of your ambitions for the future?

Helena: Traveling – I would love to start forming some global relationships with people and have the opportunity to capture as much of this world as I can. I would love to help as many people as I can feel great about themselves.  

I love beautiful landscapes partnered with fine art nudes. I would love to see more of Canada, USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. I travel with my best friend and boyfriend Steve, who inspires and encourages me, and is the funniest and greatest person I have ever met.

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

We want revolution, photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Taryn Michelle, photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Beccy: Is there anything else you want to talk about?

I haven’t ever charged money for any of the photos I have taken this far. All my work is my friends doing me favours and letting me constantly drag them around, making them take off their clothes in the freezing cold, in the middle of nowhere (or in the middle of everywhere with passersby!). They’ve felt vulnerability, even when they are fucked up, hungover and want to sleep and/or puke. My friends are the real story. Their support is why I am even able to talk about it now.

All the people I take photos of are people who love and suffer, struggle and strive, every day. They deserve recognition and constant love for who they are and the value they add to the world. I hope my photography is an inclusive and diverse look of the human form and inspires people to create art and spread love and creativity any way they can.

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Taryn Michelle, photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Claire Savard and Taryn Michelle, photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Taryn Michelle, photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Elle Munster, photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Tattooed women photography Helena Darling

Pandora, photo by Helena Darling / Instagram @the_woods_witch

Kitty tattoo by Helena Darling

Kitty tattoo by Helena Darling

Candle tattoo art by Helena Darling

Candle tattoo art by Helena Darling

Amethyst witch tattoo by Helena Darling

Amethyst witch tattoo by Helena Darling

Witch tattoo art by Helena Darling

Witch tattoo art by Helena Darling

Explore more photos on Helena Darling’s Instagram. Once I start scrolling through her images, I can’t stop. I defy anyone to have a look and be able to tear themselves away! For sparkly tattoo goodness, head over here.


Words: Beccy Rimmer
Photos: Helena Darling

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