Franki – in her own words

A number of Franki’s diaries and notebooks are deposited with Special Collections at the University of St Andrews Library.

In 1989 prior to her trip to the Soviet Union she was in contact with Valentina Fedotova, the editor of the magazine Soviet Woman. Fedotova asked Franki to contribute an article. This is an extract from the notes Franki made in preparation.

I was 15 years old when I first visited the Soviet Union. I will never forget the experience of that visit. It was very important for me. I remember so clearly standing at the window of my hotel room in Leningrad and watching the workers on a building site below as they laid the foundations of a new building. The workers on that site were women. On that same visit I met women factory managers, a surgeon, and women engineers. I saw for the first time that it was possible for women to work in any occupation at any level. The experience of that visit has led me down a path of interest and concern that has determined my life and work since that day…….

My working life has been spent in Scotland..but I am fortunate to have been able to travel extensively and through my work visit many countries. All these visits have been made with one overriding interest – the desire to see and learn about the lives of women and to show, through my photographs, the reality of these lives……..

Sometimes the problems seem overwhelming, particularly when I think of how rich my country is and yet how poor the quality of life is for so many women. I often question the value of my work when faced with these problems but I have chosen to work as a photographer because I hope that through my photographs people will see and learn about the reality of life for women and question and press for change and improvement. When I look back on a typical day’s work I realise that very little of my time is spent in taking photographs and most of my time is spent talking to the women about the issues to be portrayed. Without the understanding that I gain from talking to women I cannot produce good photographs. I want my photographs to show how women feel and to do this I have to learn myself…….. 

Franki Raffles, Notebook, Summer 1989