Emma Knapp Talks Photography: Influences, Projects, and Constantly Evolving

Emma KnappEmma Knapp
Columbia College Chicago student tells us about how she became interested in photography and its endless possibilities.

Emma Knapp is currently a senior at Columbia College Chicago majoring in Photography with a concentration in Commercial Photography. When she’s not taking classes or studying, you can catch her working in a photo studio on campus or helping with campus events such as Admitted Student Days and Connections. She talks to us about her influences, projects, and being comfortable with constantly evolving.

When did you first become interested in photography and what was it about photography that interested you?

I have always enjoyed photography as a very casual hobby. My parents even gave me an automatic camera to carry around when I was four. My sophomore year of high school I had an absolutely amazing photography teacher, Ms. Hollenback. I knew within a week of starting her class that I seriously wanted to pursue photography and have stuck with it ever since then. Ms. Hollenback encouraged all of her students to capture things we truly wanted to and supported me so much throughout school. I was originally drawn to photography because of the ability to capture important moments in my life, but once I realized that the possibilities were absolutely endless, I was hooked.

Why did you choose Columbia College Chicago and what has your experience been like?

I chose Columbia due to the location of the campus and industry connections of the professors and faculty in my program. I am able to live not too far from my family while also getting to experience a whole new world view and meet so many new people. The professor connections to the industry were important to me because I think it is very beneficial to learn from people who have real-world experience in a field you’re trying to break into. Overall, my experience at Columbia College Chicago has been wonderful. I love my department and have been able to make so many amazing connections to friends, colleagues, and mentors that I couldn’t possibly keep track of them all. I have had so many amazing opportunities to try new things and build relationships with people I never would have met outside of Columbia.

What is your favorite type of photography? Do you have a favorite photographer?

I don’t think I necessarily have a favorite type of photography to view because I honestly love looking at all types of work whether that’s commercial, fashion, documentary, or something else. In that same vein, I don’t really have an all-time favorite photographer either because it can change at any moment for me. I will say that my first real photography ‘muse’ was Irving Penn. His work really transformed my views of photography as a whole and helped me begin to envision the type of work I really wanted to be making and the path I wanted to start myself on.

What influences your work?

Everything influences my work to some extent. World events, my mood, things I see during my day are just a few major things that I feel directly influenced by. Sometimes it can be hard to see how a commercial image that focuses heavily on a single product is influenced by an outside event, but my aesthetics are always shifting based on what is happening around me. I also take a lot of cues from other photographers. Sometimes I will see something someone has done, and it gives me a great idea on how to build out and make something my own.

Can you tell us about some of your past, current, and/or upcoming photography projects?

In the past I have worked on a ton of projects including one large project that was a 21-image piece focused on studying movement, color, and form in liquid. Currently, I am working on a body of work for a natural cosmetics company that I am interning with as well as getting started on a photo essay that features images of people’s quarantine baking projects and comfort foods.

What advice do you have for others who are thinking of pursuing photography as a profession?

If you are considering pursuing photography professionally, I always say go for it! That being said, make sure you know that a lot of work will need to go into your practice and be prepared to give it your all. There is always something new to learn and something that you can be doing better. Embrace that. You will constantly be evolving and that is a good thing. Don’t try and force yourself to remain static.



Daisy Franco
Communications Manager