Tamara Bahry: Turning The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary
By turning life’s mundane moments into creative and inspiring art collections, Bahry always includes a philanthropic component to her work by donating part of her sales to charities she’s most passionate about.
As redundant as our day-to-day lives may seem, every day is filled with wonder, with joy, with stories, with colours and expressions of living. It takes a keen and aware eye to notice them, but an even keener eye to appreciate them and capture them on camera. Tamara Bahry has just such a keen eye as a Canadian contemporary photographer with a most distinctive talent of being a visual storyteller. Growing up in an Eastern European neighbourhood in Toronto and attending a Ukrainian school, she immersed herself in culture and was surrounded by creative minds, her mother, an author, and her father, a hobby photographer.
“Our home was filled with amazing black-and-white photos of different objects and nature,” recalls Bahry, whose fascination with the lens began by taking photos when she was just four years old. “I would stare at my father’s photos from our nature walks when I was growing up, and just study his composition, lights and shapes.”
The creativity of her youth shaped Bahry and never left her, even when she was enjoying a successful and demanding career in corporate finance. She yearned for a return to her creative roots and took up the camera full time, and she has been honing her craft since 1995. “For me, being a photographer is always an adventure, where I’m always bringing new stories, and it allows me creativity,” says Bahry.
That ability to tell stories through her photographs is what sets Bahry apart. She possesses an innate ability to present the ordinary — be it humankind, animals, water, bubbles or flowers — in an extraordinary way. In capturing life’s candid moments, she reflects the essence and spirit of her subject’s lives set amid their beloved backdrops. Her work is full of vibrancy, denoting colour and movement, and the joy of special times.
“People would ask me to take their portraits, and I never studied portraiture, but I knew I wanted to do it in a different way,” says Bahry about her approach in reflecting the awareness of life and the creatures that inhabit it. “I like to capture people and families doing what they do best and their interests, which reflects their different characters and personalities. I’m also a landscape lover, so anything that tells the story of animals or flowers, that would be my passion, and to see those things differently and to capture them in an abstract way.”
Her remarkable talents have guided Bahry to international acclaim in the world of art. Tamara Bahry Fine Art Photography has been exhibited in galleries and art fairs around the world and is included in some of the most impressive private and corporate collections. Her work has won several industry awards and has been featured in such prestigious publications as American Photo, House & Home, Photo Life and Architectural Digest, among others, and all of them are proud to feature her quintessential approach in capturing the simplest of moments, turning the ordinary into something extraordinary.
“My inspiration comes from the environment around me and by trying to keep my mind staying creative,” says Bahry. “Be it the soap bubbles I was blowing for my daughter one day on the beach, which is sort of a mundane activity, until I noticed the surrounding nature the bubbles were reflecting. And, one day I noticed some motor oil in a puddle outside my car and thought by adding motor oil to the dish detergent for the soap bubbles, it would become much more colourful. So, in that way, a normal everyday activity with my kid became much more creative and inspiring for me.”
Her observational nature has been displayed in her recent Rembrandt Series, which again, had its origins in a simple and natural way. “COVID has all given us the gift of time, and I’m home much more now and one day received a bouquet of spring flowers,” she recalls. “During the day, I could watch how the light changed on the bouquet, and I immediately thought of Rembrandt and how he would paint flowers and how his colours reflected the drama of changing light on flowers.”
Bahry is equally passionate about her philanthropic work on behalf of charities and missions, doing good work, and has set up The Bahry Foundation, which will focus upon charity through art with a commitment to give back and donate her time and profits to causes close to her heart.
“I wanted to create a legacy for my children and a way to contribute to issues that I’m passionate about, while at the same time, teach my kids about those issues,” says Bahry. “My main focus are women, children and animals. I find helping others is hugely empowering and, in return, it can make you feel happier and more fulfilled.”
She also uses her profile to serve on many boards and committees and is a founding board member of the Human Anti-Trafficking Response Team (HART), which recently announced a groundbreaking partnership with Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital, as well as founder of Commission Yourself and #STOPTRAFFICK Bike Ride, a movement to bring an end to sex trafficking. Bahry also co-founded Muskoka Lakes Bracelets, a fundraising platform to aid Muskoka Victim Services and help rebuild local community homes and businesses devastated by the floods of spring 2019. She also awards an annual educational scholarship to a deserving student in Ontario for aspiring photographers to continue their passion in the art.
Perhaps we could all learn something from Bahry. It’s been said that life is like a movie, and Tamara Bahry should be cherished for appreciating and capturing the wonder of life and our world, frame by frame.
Interview by Estelle Zentil