Betsey Hansell trained as a painter at Wayne State University in Detroit, where she earned an MFA. She taught there briefly, reviewed art, and showed work at local galleries and museums including two one-person shows and many group exhibitions. She also illustrated a book of poetry by Joyce Carol Oates.

She worked as a staff reporter at the Detroit Free Press in the 1980s, moved to Philadelphia, and learned photography, which she practices full-time in Yardley, PA.

Her current work is about finding unusual visual ways to depict the tug-of-war between nature and the built environment. Recent projects include, Penn's Point, which records the transformation of a suburban woodland into townhouses and Tracking, an ongoing series which records wild places and new construction and abandoned factories seen from moving commuter trains between Trenton, New Jersey, and New York City.

She finds her photographic roots in work by Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz.