Musing on Sensuality is a series where we sit down with people who inspire sensuality, and talk about how they cultivate it in their life and work. We hope this series to be a source of inspiration for readers to help cultivate their own daily sensuality. Emily Raftery is a photographer and friend of Underlena, and shot our Sensuality Series Pt 1: The Lovers.
Self-portrait, Emily Raftery
Who are you and how do you spend your time?
My name is Emily Raftery, I am an artist, mother, dreamer, and photographer based in Tāmaki Makaurau. When I’m not photographing (which I do full time documenting weddings, family stories, and commercial events), I love to move my body. I do boxing, I walk, and I have had yoga in my life for 24 years now; something I’ll never be without. I drink tea, I read, I like to make and drink delicious concoctions in my garden (or outdoor bath), and I spend a lot of time in nature. I’m a regular ocean swimmer, although I feel I should perhaps say 'ocean frequenter' as I’m not out there doing laps in a cap and onesie...I’m leisurely bobbing around in the high tide, soaking up all the goodness the ocean does for one's body and soul.
Sensuality Series pt 1: The Lovers, by Emily Raftery
What does sensuality mean to you? What does it feel like?
I think sensuality is all-encompassing. Everything can be sensual if that is how you see and feel the world. It is the way you dress, the way you make and drink your morning hot drink, the way you move, how things feel against your skin, how you look and move through this world...it’s all beautiful, really.
If I had to sum up what it feels like in a one-vibe-situation though, I’d say it feels like a morning winter snuggle in bed with hot tea and a lover, while wearing only an oversized cashmere sweater. Legs intwined, bed warmed, slow and soft. Cellar Feels candle by Curio Noir burning, and Need Your Love So Bad by Fleetwood Mac crackling away on a record player somewhere.
Do you have any practices that help you cultivate sensuality on a daily basis? I know you’re a regular morning swimmer…
I do firmly believe the way we set ourselves up for the day, how we make our hot beverages, what mug you use, what music you put on in the morning (sometimes it’s just bird song and the outside world noises) can all cultivate sensuality. I do love to take my morning tea in my favourite mug to the beach, where I have a few moments of peace watching the sun rise, hearing the world wake up, and getting in the ocean to make it all go quiet again the moment you dive under. I have found swimming all year round has really tuned me in to the senses of the world a lot more. You appreciate how your skin feels after the ocean dunk during each different season, and have to pay more attention to your body afterwards.
Another daily ritual I love, especially after beach days or winter morning swims, is using Sans[ceuticals] Activator 7 Oil. I love the smell and feel of this body oil. Again, it’s a slow, mindful process, and something I have only got into in the last few years.
Has your approach to it changed over time? How?
I think sensuality gets tied in with sexuality quite a lot, and rightly so. For me personally I haven’t really felt comfortable in my own skin until the last few years of my life, so I’ve really leaned a lot more into my own sensuality of being just who I am, and the package I am here walking around in. Slow and steady wins the race, take your time, get to know yourself, inside and out.
Sensuality Series pt 1: The Lovers, by Emily Raftery
Photography is quite an intimate practice - how does the idea of sensuality influence how you approach shoots? How did it allow you to approach The Lovers’ shoot?
Ever since I first started photographing seriously at university in 2003, people and intimacy was always a strong theme. Human connection was what I chose to point my camera at. My real first body of work saw me document friends of mine that were a couple. For a whole year, I would go over in the early mornings and wake them up, make us all tea, and document them in bed together. That sounds a bit pervier than it was, it was really about accessing and showcasing a view on those beautiful morning hours as lovers. Where you’re both still half asleep, the light and feel of that time of day is soft, intimate, warm and gentle - I wanted to capture what that feels like.
So, the long-winded answer to that question is, sensuality has always been a constant influence for me, we document what we love right? It came naturally when photographing The Lover’s shoot for you, hence why I jumped at the idea and was so thrilled you asked me. I loved having a loose brief, and just a few key words for me to play with, I can see sensuality is the backbone behind both our ethos’, so a dream team and result really! What I loved hearing as well from my beautiful couple I photographed, is that it sparked a real connection between them after the shoot. I think the sensuality of the pieces, the light, their close and gentleness with each other while we were taking the photos all cultivated something really beautiful that day.
How does lingerie make you feel?
It makes me feel amazing! Womanly, sensual, sexy, it’s like being subtly hugged underneath your clothes, one that no one else can see or feel... unless you choose to let them. I love that you can be fierce in the element of surprise with your lingerie choices - casual baggy t-shirt? Hot pink bra underneath. Low lying back on a dress? Subtle lace bralette poking through. I enjoy playing, and always give my lingerie consideration when choosing outfits. That is a fun and powerful feeling, I think.
And of course, what is your favourite piece or set from Underlena?
It feels funny saying this as I reflect back on my slow, sensual writings above, you’d think I’d have something more subtle to say…. but actually my favourite from Underlena is my hot pink Araks set! It’s bold, bright and fun, and the little shorts make my botty look cute as pie. I’ve been loving wearing it under sheer items of clothing, and letting that hot pink rock out. It’s a colour I never thought I’d see myself in, but, the joy of underwear; they cover such a little part of your body you can get away wearing colours you might not usually wear elsewhere.
Thank you Em, that was beautiful.
For more of the wonderful Emily Raftery, follow her on Instagram at @justemily.r or take a look at her website www.emilyraftery.co.nz.