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Photog Blog Series: Emily Raftery

Emily Raftery is a portrait and wedding photographer based in Devonport, Auckland. Although she shoots her commercial work using digital cameras, film still remains her passion and format of choice for personal projects.
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Believe it or not, but people have been taking photographs for almost 200 years now. In that time we’ve gone from taking blurry, long-exposure landscapes on metal plates to recording every aspect of our lives with HD digital cameras in our pockets.

It’s easy to think of old technology as dead or obsolete. At MOTAT, we love to show just how alive and exciting it still can be. As part of our Love / Science exhibition, we are profiling four talented photographers who share MOTAT’s passion for new technology while still keeping old tech ticking.

Emily Raftery is a portrait and wedding photographer based in Devonport, Auckland. Although she shoots her commercial work using digital cameras, film remains her passion and the format of choice for her personal projects.

What began as a means to avoid more academic subjects in high school quickly became a life-long passion and later developed into a career.

At age 19 she moved to New York City, bought a film camera, and began capturing her experiences and people she met along the way. During this time, it became clear to Emily that photography was more than just a hobby “I knew that this was something much more serious for me, what I wanted to be doing, and needed to explore the artistic side of it further,” she said. Emily later returned to New Zealand and enrolled in a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in photography. 

Emily Raftery - City Fog

In the final year of her degree, Emily became a mother and began a photography business to support the young family. This meant abandoning some of her more artistic leanings in favour of modern digital photography. Over the last four years though, Emily has found time to return to her roots. Her personal photography is all shot using her collection of analogue cameras.

The self-portrait displayed in MOTAT's Love / Science exhibit was taken on one of Emily’s favourite cameras: a Polaroid SX-70. She loves the instant, tangible nature of Polaroid film. It’s a love she shares with photographers across the globe.

The rise of digital cameras led to Polaroid discontinuing its film products and declaring bankruptcy in 2008. However, another company bought the Polaroid name and began producing new film and cameras in 2017.

Emily Raftery - Polaroid Self Portrait

Her personal projects focus on portraits of people in their everyday environments, using natural light. She says “I love the connections and interactions I manage to find or create with people when asking to take their portrait.” There is also a synergy between her portraits and a love for smalltown New Zealand that really works — seeing the frequently overlooked and turning it into art. “It’s where my passions lie: for the real, the natural, the everyday, and championing the mundane," she adds.

Camera of Choice: “It is hard to pick a favourite. It kind of feels like I am being asked to choose a favourite child!”

Check out more of Emily’s work on her website and see one of her polaroid self-portraits in Love / Science — open now.

Love / Science Photog Blog Series

Story by Todd Dixon, Exhibitions Curator, MOTAT

Dixon, Todd. Photog Blog Series: Emily Raftery. New Zealand: The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). First published: 24 November 2021. URL www.motat.nz/photog-blog-series-emily-raftery