The Franki Raffles Photography Collection

Friday 29 January 2021

With the completion of a 26-month project, the Franki Raffles Photography Collection has now been fully catalogued. The online catalogue of the photographs in this collection is now available on the Special Collections website, alongside a catalogue of the papers of Franki Raffles.  Weitian Liu, Enlight Foundation Trainee who has worked on this project, celebrates this achievement.

This is the first part of a two-part blog series that accompanies the completion of the cataloguing project. In this blogpost, Weitian will provide a brief introduction to the collection and an account of its history. This will be followed by a bibliography informed by the current status of research concerning Raffles’ life and work. In the second part of this series, he will attempt an overview of her work and discuss some highlights from this collection that impressed him during the cataloguing project.

The newly catalogued collection documents Franki Raffles’ short but prolific career as a photographer, comprising approximately 47,000 photographs and 13 boxes of non-photographic materials. In accordance with the photographic projects and journeys she undertook between 1978 and 1994, the collection is arranged into 23 series, three of which contain multiple sub-series corresponding to small projects or unclassifiable photographs that nonetheless offer a rich insight into her practice. In addition to her acclaimed work for the Zero Tolerance campaign and several other projects shown in the 2017 exhibition Observing Women at Work, the collection holds her lesser-known works which range from photographs made during the formative years of her career to exhibition mock-ups for her final and uncompleted project Lot’s Wife.

Now sorted and catalogued, these materials allow further research into Raffles’ photographic work. Furthermore, the collection constitutes a valuable source for researching the history of photography in Scotland in the 1980s and early 1990s and its relation to feminism, social justice, and the documentary tradition. It is worth mentioning here that the School of Art History at St Andrews has recently released a fully funded PhD opportunity designed for the research project ‘Feminist Documentary Photography and Activist Networks’. This doctoral project is surely going to expand existing discussions of feminist photography and documentary practices in Scotland and beyond. As well as material specific to the work of Raffles, the collection holds a number of photography publications that can be of use to students of history of art and photography. Given the broad and diverse range of Raffles’ work, the collection also offers research potential in subject areas such as Chinese studies, and gender studies, as well as research topics related to housing in Scotland, women in the Soviet Union, Soviet immigrants in Israel, etc.

A brief history of this collection

The entire output of Raffles’ work was put together posthumously by Alistair Scott, Associate Professor of Film and Television at Edinburgh Napier University, with full support from The Franki Raffles’ Estate. In 2013, Scott began a research project to sort the materials and investigate Raffles’ creative practice. Working with students at Edinburgh Napier, Scott identified key themes in her work and digitised a selection of images representative of some of her major projects.

In 2014, with the assistance of Marc Boulay, then Photographic Archivist at the University of St Andrews, these materials were transferred to the Special Collections Division of the University of St Andrews Library where resources for preservation and storage are available. The materials formed the Franki Raffles Photography Collection under the broader collecting area ‘Scottish contemporary and social documentary photography’. This collection was divided into two parts: Papers of Franki Raffles as part of the Archive Collections and Franki Raffles Photography Collection as part of the Photographic Collection. The cataloguing of both papers and photographs ensued, with work on the papers being done by Miriam Buncombe as part of her work experience during her distance-learning qualification as an archivist.

Based on archival research and including newly conducted interviews with people who had known or collaborated with Raffles, the Franki Raffles Archive website was launched in 2016. In the following year, the first retrospective exhibition of Raffles’ work, Observing Women at Work, was held at the Glasgow School of Art. Curated by Jenny Brownrigg in partnership with the Franki Raffles Archive Project, the exhibition focused on three of Raffles’ major photographic projects.

With the support of the Enlight Foundation, a two-year cataloguing project was launched in September 2018 in a bid to compile a systematic catalogue of the photographic collection. This project involved rehousing, indexing, organising, cataloguing, and selectively digitising the entire collection. The project was completed by Weitian in November 2020. Further digitisation work is in progress, with a focus on negative images and prints from series and projects that have previously received little attention.

Weitian Liu
Enlight Foundation Trainee

Selected Bibliography

Biography and overview

Innes, Sue. ‘Raffles, Frances Rachel [Franki] (1955–1994).’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 2004. [Online]

Ewan, Elizabeth. Rose Pipes, Jane Rendall, Siân Reynolds, eds. The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women. Edinburgh University Press. 2018, p. 296

Scott, Alistair. ‘Re-discovering Feminist Photographer Franki Raffles.’ Studies in Photography (Summer 2017), pp. 58–62.

Benoit-Blain, Marine.Franki Raffles, photographe engagée: la photographie féministe en Écosse dans les années 1980 et 1990.’ (Published in French, with a translated English title: Franki Raffles, Militant Photographer: Feminist Photography in Scotland in the 1980s and 1990s) Les Cahiers de l’École du Louvre 10, 2017. [Online] URL:; DOI:

Heeley, Lydia. ‘Scottish Documentary Photography and the Archive.’ MPhil dissertation, University of St Andrews, 2019. Available at The second chapter of this dissertation, titled ‘Franki Raffles and Materiality in the Archive’, is focused on the Franki Raffles Photography Collection.

The Franki Raffles Archive.



Franki Raffles: Observing Women at Work. Glasgow: The Glasgow School of Art, 2017. This is the publication that accompanied the eponymous exhibition in 2017. An essay by the exhibition curator Jenny Brownrigg is available for download on the website of GSA:

Scott, Alistair. Interview with Jenny Brownrigg for the exhibition Franki Raffles: Observing Women at Work. Published by Photomonitor in July 2017. [Online]

Spencer, Catherine. Review of Observing Women at Work: Franki RafflesMAP Magazine 38 (April 2017). [Online]


Blog posts

Scott, Alistair. ‘International Women’s Day: Launch of’ Echoes from the Vault (March 2016).

Gray, Lindsey. ‘Reading the Collections, Week 47: Celebrating Women: the Franki Raffles Photographic Collection.’ Echoes from the Vault (February 2016).

Gray, Lindsey. ‘St Andrews Photography Festival: The Weighing Machine (Franki Raffles, 1989).’ Echoes from the Vault (July 2016).

Kavaliova, Katryn. ‘Franki Raffles: A photographic portfolio on feminism.’ University of St Andrews Museum Collections Blog (April 2018). [Online]

Liu, Weitian. ‘International Women’s Day 2020: Snapshots of Edinburgh District Council Women’s Committee by Franki Raffles.’ Echoes from the Vault (March 2020).

Further reading

Papers of Franki Raffles held in the Franki Raffles Photography Collection, including various publications.

Browne, Sarah. The Women’s Liberation Movement in Scotland. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014. An account of Raffles’ engagement with the Women’s Liberation Movement can be found in Chapter Five ‘Building a Network’.

Browne, Sarah. ‘’A Veritable Hotbed of feminism’’: Women’s Liberation in St Andrews, Scotland, c 1968 – c 1979’. 20th Century British History. 23: 1 (March 2012), pp. 100-123. doi: 10.1093/tcbh/hwq058.

Mackay, Fiona. ‘The Case of Zero Tolerance: Women’s Politics in Action?’ In Women and Contemporary Scottish Politics: An Anthology, edited by Esther Breitenbach and Fiona Mackay, pp. 105-129. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001.

Mackay, Fiona. ‘The Zero Tolerance Campaign: Setting the Agenda.’ Parliamentary Affairs 49, Issue 1 (January 1996), pp. 206-220.

Goldsack, Laura. ‘A Heaven in a Heartless World? Women and Domestic Violence,’ in Ideal Homes? Social Change and Domestic Life. Edited by Tony Chapman and Jerry Hockey, pp. 121-132. London: Routledge, 1999.

Further information about the PhD scholarship ‘Feminist Documentary Photography and Activist Networks Scholarship’ can be found on website of the School of Art History.

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