Emily, Creative Work With Heart: Women’s History Month

“I have a belief that marginalized groups can thrive in creative fields and as a disabled woman it is my overall goal to make the art and music industries a more accessible place for under-represented groups.”

Emily Muller, a twenty year old music photographer based out of Chicago (USA) and St Andrews (UK), is a full-time student splitting her time between academia and freelance photography. We’re honored to have her as our second Women’s History Month feature.

She has a passion for making the art and music industries a more accessible place for underrepresented groups. When Emily isn’t at a gig you can find her at a dance club, petting a dog, or spending too much time reading poetry anthologies.

Emily explained on how she started her journey in the music industry, “When I was fifteen or sixteen I volunteered to take photos for a venue’s blog, SPACE Evanston, to gain experience. From there I started photographing for small publications, most of which are or were run by young women seeking to diversify the music industry and raise awareness for social issues with the help of music artists. I had been active in activism circles from the time I was young so I really just matched myself with publications that had similar goals and values. I was incredibly lucky to be given the opportunity to learn in low-pressure environments, something really important when I was still in high school!”

Your photos are beautiful! Can you tell us about your favorite event? What is the best part about being a concert photographer?

Thank you so much! One of my favorites is definitely Pitchfork Music Festival 2019. Chicago was in the midst of a heatwave and we all gathered in air-conditioned, off-duty busses between shooting shows. They also had the best pizza. Additionally, I got to shoot The 1975 for P&J Live in Aberdeen very recently. It was a really cool, full-circle experience. When I was younger I’d bring a point-n-shoot to their shows to try to capture their brilliant light designs. It was a dream to shoot them properly.

The best part of being a concert photographer is the people. I love it when I get to chat with the fans of an artist that I’m photographing and hear why their music is so special to them. 

You said that, “I have a belief that marginalized groups can thrive in creative fields and as a disabled woman it is my overall goal to make the art and music industries a more accessible place for under-represented groups.” Can you expand more on this? Can you share your story with us?

After a lifetime of weakness and motor issues, I entered university with several medical misdiagnoses and I had my world rocked the summer before my second year when doctors started to piece together that I actually likely have a slowly progressive, neurogenic condition. While I have been told it is unlikely I will receive a specific, genetically-confirmed diagnosis until the science improves we know that my nerves have issues communicating with my muscles and this causes weakness and atrophy.

It can be difficult to be a female photographer and adding a disability on top of that can be nerve-wracking! I worry that if my muscle wasting gets worse I’ll have more trouble holding my camera or that I won’t be able to move around photo pits as I can now. And, in a way, I also worry that these physical effects of my disability will be perceived to those who don’t know me as incompetence. 

But there is a duality to this – I think that it is really important to see things from the perspective of someone in a community that may traditionally be on the fringes of social events. There are always pieces of my lived experience in my photographs, whether they be of strangers, my friends or music artists. I noticed that I have an affinity for photos of people jumping and dancing, activities that have grown harder for me but that I still find joy in nonetheless. To capture people when they feel most alive is a privilege. 

Take a second to view a small gallery of Emily’s work! Emily has taken photos of Grapetooth, Young The Giant, Charli XCX, and Whitney for Alt Philanthropy. She took photos of Riton for Starfields Music Festival and photos of The 1975 for P&J Live Aberdeen.

What are some small things everyone can do to promote equality in our scene?

Call out bad behavior when you see it! If you see someone being harassed at a gig, do not stand idly by. Make sure that your pals and peers are treating everyone in the scene with respect, not just the individuals who are similar to you. For those who are in the industry, book female performers and try to ensure that your touring party is diverse. It is so important to make the change that you want to see.

What females have inspired you in the music industry? Why?

I will always have the utmost love, respect and admiration for Ramisha Sattar and Caitlin Ferguson who I learned everything I know about the industry with and from. Their dedication to making the scene a safer place for women is really admirable. I am also so inspired by Lizzie Ritchie and Darby Ottoson, both of whom have kept me company at festivals and shared food and love. Additionally, Linda McCartney is an icon of mine…I think that hearing stories of her life and work when I was a kid shaped my desire to do this kind of work.

What future plans and/or goals have you set?

I am currently in my third year of university and I am studying International Relations and Social Anthropology. After I graduate I am interested in moving towards a career in photojournalism and capturing influential social and political events! I also really, really, really want to tour.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Thank you so much for interviewing me for your Women’s History Month series! I’m touched.

Connect with Emily on social media!

Website | Twitter | Instagram