The United States and New Zealand couldn’t be further apart, but when Emma and Ryan finally connected, it quickly becomes clear that worldly boundaries mean very little – especially when in pursuit of meaningful stories.

*This interview was transcribed from The 88’s podcast interview with Emma.
Consequently, the content has been edited where appropriate.

How did you start in photography?

I started off when I was 16 or 17, just taking pictures of myself in the backyard on self timer with my Dad’s professional camera and edit them. Soon enough, I’d sneak downtown with his camera and take pictures of homeless people or people who I thought were interesting.

I went to my first year of college at Washington State (majoring in Psychology) and after that year, I decided to go to Iceland for the summer. I was 18 at the time, and lived there for about 3 months. And these two men who were kayaking from Greenland to Scotland needed a young photographer to follow them on their journey. So I got the job, travelled around Iceland and sailed to Greenland.

After that I was like, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

So I quit college and decided to fully pursue photography that way.

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Tell us more about how your photography shifted more into the documentary space.

When I got home from Iceland, I had heard about the Standing Rock pipeline protests. And I had seen what was happening on the media, and i was like I know i can take better pictures, and represent these people better than this.

So I just bought a backpack and took a 36hour train ride to the protests and lived there for a couple months.

After I got back – I had the bug and that led me to take up more documentary work.

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Are there any stories that stand out as one of the most memorable?

Each one of the experiences that I have had are so unique, and have met so many amazing people – my photography would be nothing without my subjects, with their amazing stories and their willingness to let me represent them – so each assignment is special.

But growing up in North East Oregon, where Native Americans are heavily present. Going to Standing rock and living in a teepee with a tribe, brought so much more insight into that culture.

There was Kenya; where the culture was so different and beautiful in its own way.

Then there was Lebanon; where I met so many amazing women UN peacekeepers in the UN Camps.

Each story is so unique that I can’t pick one!

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Have there ever been moments that have made you question your decisions?

There has never been a situation where I’ve decided not to go.

Instead I ask what story can I get from this experience and how do I get it.

It’s all about telling the story and getting the photo.

That will probably get me in trouble one day…

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Listen to the full podcast; or find it on Apple Music, Spotify and Anchor.

Emma is a documentary photographer based in the USA.

Find out more about her work ~
Instagram: @efranciswork

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