Visual Artist Spotlight: Emma Buntrock-Müller [Of The Impact Photography]

By Sophie Walker

It is a rare thing that we would hear the voice behind the camera; photographers elect their work to be the medium between themselves and ourselves, the audience. But here Soundsphere magazine offers the opportunity to hear the remarkable, visionary voice of an ultimately remarkable, visionary photographer: Emma Buntrock-Müller, perhaps better known under her creative alias, Emma of The Impact.

Perhaps the most immediate question when in conversation with anyone of a creative calibre is what the source of their inspiration is that impels them to create. “I’m highly inspired by a lot of moments and feelings in my life. I love story telling. A lot of these feelings are so universal but the experience of them is very individual. What draws people to certain stories really inspires me. I love the work of David Lynch. I love Mystery Science Theatre, I think it’s a hilarious. And I have actually created some very dark images inspired by that show – which you wouldn’t think, but when you’re able to process your emotions through humour or a companionable darkness, it’s a beautiful thing.” What is striking about Emma is that her response seemed to catalyse a passionate and pensive response that didn’t shy from self-expression, which I think aptly demarcates her character from the very first question.

Every artist, regardless of their field or craft, faces trials and tribulations in trying attain an identity and integrity. For someone as accomplished and confident as Emma, we were curious to hear about what obstacles she faces, and her strategy for overcoming them. “The biggest challenge for me is the ‘Imposter Syndrome’: the idea of not being good enough, feeling like you’re lacking skills, technology and experience. But you have to start somewhere, everybody does. Why not you? Why not? Anyone can be an artist. I feel like ‘artist’ is a loose term. Once I let myself create and not put myself down or compare myself to others and realise putting something into the world is magical enough as opposed to always taking from the world, it’s enough. It’s a gift and I am very fortunate.”

We all, somewhere in the back of our minds, are driven by a motto, philosophy or small piece of advice. “My greatest career advice came from a photographer who calls himself Dastardly Dave. We don’t collaborate, and we’re not good friends, but he gave me good advice in the sense that I created this image that I worked really hard on – and I’m still really proud of it – but at the time I was looking at all the negative parts of that image. He said to me, ‘the narrative is there. Don’t worry about the editing, all that stuff will come. But the narrative is the most important thing.’ But the event in her career that seemed to resonate the most with her, which she recalled to us, was this one: “My friend had set me up with the Miami Arts and Designs show. We did charity work for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, as something that is very close to me. I got to talk to a lot of people, dealers and patrons who’d been affected by suicide. People opened up to me about very emotional experiences that had affected them so much. It’s more common than we think.”

There are artistic epicentres in every county, where there is a strong community of artists and creators, such as LA, New York, London, or Paris. It seems to be an unwritten rule that, as a creative, these are the only places you can thrive; for such free-thinkers, there is a jarring irony to their lack of free movement. As a photographer from New Hampshire, we wanted to know if Emma thought that this was an inhibitor to her growth and opportunities: “You can do it anywhere in the world and find success. Success is being a committed creator. Getting involved in the internet is a wonderful thing. You have to share your work and not be afraid of it. You can create anywhere. Use what’s around you and your narrative creatively with what you have. You don’t have to have the fanciest camera, or a studio with all these lights. I’m fortunate enough to have a studio but you don’t have to have one. There is a beauty in everywhere you go. Finding your way to create your story to bring out the beauty – or the ugliness, if that’s what you want to do – is the most important thing. You just have to find your way of getting it out there and sharing it with the world.”

Speaking from experience, and for our readers here at Soundsphere magazine, we asked Emma to tell us what her advice would be for a young artist of today: “Don’t worry about what other people think. You have to put things out into the world. Even if you see flaws in your piece, do it, that’s how you learn. There’s so many artists that I look up to that are these big photographers. They look back on the art they did ten years ago and don’t like it, and they were really proud of their art at the time. You’re going to get better. Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Don’t worry about whether it’s good enough. You put your heart and soul into it and that’s what’s important. The internet is such a good tool. Keep doing it. In the world there are the successful, naturally gifted artists like Mozart – though that’s rare – and then there’s the rest of us, with no skill whatsoever, starting off with nothing but sticking to it. From that passion, follows skill.”

Her work keeps going from strength to strength; for someone as accomplished as Emma, what paths does she want to pursue next, to continue to cultivate an already thriving career? “I’m already proud of who I am, but I can always be that little bit better. One thing in particular is that I don’t want to work for hire, so I can explore different forms of photography. I’m also always looking for more opportunities to meet other creative people and collaborate. To just keep creating is enough: it keeps us moving forward.”

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Interview: Dom Smith | Words: Sophie Walker

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