Photographer Muriel Knudson finds success at young age

She had everything planned out. She was going to be a volleyball star.  She was going to college to play the sport that had consumed her life for 12 years. But then, the summer before her senior year of high school, Muriel Knudson asked herself, “What do I actually want to do?”

Knudson realized she didn’t love volleyball as much as she thought. Instead of spending her summer at training camps and practices, she accepted a photography internship with her hometown newspaper in Minnesota. She started photographing local sports and small music festivals, quickly working her way up to shoot Minnesota Vikings games. Knudson met people through her internship who connected her to opportunities she never imagined.

“It’s crazy how many doors open up when you do what you’re meant to do,” Knudson says.

She didn’t plan on being a photographer, but Knudson’s internship unleashed a passion within her.

Knudson had been a huge fan of a YouTuber named Lauren Sanderson since her freshman year in high school. Sanderson was the first person Knudson saw making YouTube videos while keeping her true persona. The two became friends over Twitter, sending sporadic direct messages back and forth.

Sanderson branched out from YouTube and started creating music. She invited Knudson to visit her in Fort Wayne, Indiana a few times the summer of 2016. After a few visits, she asked Knudson to join her on tour as her photographer

Knudson now splits her time between Minnesota and Indiana, but she considers Indiana her main home.

She is completely self-taught with the exception of a film photography class in high school. Her strategy for tackling DSLR cameras is to press buttons until something happens, then remember which buttons she pressed.

“Surround yourself with people who aren’t scared to teach you what they know,” Knudson says crediting others in the creative community with helping her photography improve.

Lack of formal higher education hasn’t hindered Knudson’s success. At 19, she has already photographed big names like A$AP Rocky and Future, and she has even shot at New York Fashion Week. Her key to success is persistence. She wasn’t handed the chance to shoot at NYFW. She bought a last-minute plane ticket and turned to her Twitter followers for a place to stay. She didn’t have a press pass, but she took a chance in hopes that she would get just one shot. She joined a crowd of paparazzi and began shooting. Knudson didn’t want her photos to look the same as everyone else’s, so she crouched down and photographed from between people’s legs.

This isn’t the only example of Knudson going the distance for a photo opportunity.

Mac Miller performed in Minnesota when Knudson was residing there. She asked for a press pass, but the photo list was already closed. But he was performing in Madison, Wisconsin the next night.

So Knudson called to see if she could get a pass for that show and got one.

The next day, she drove four hours to the concert, stayed to shoot for three songs, then drove four hours back home to get up for work at 6:30 the following morning. Going out of her way to get unique opportunities is Knudson’s MO.

To keep updating her portfolio, Knudson is constantly seeking out chances to photograph. She contacts around 30 people a day, casting a wide net from music venues to magazines.

She is told “no” often, but when she gets a “yes,” she makes it great.

Knudson sometimes forgets that she is only 19. She says she feels like she is 45 because she doesn’t go to parties or have many friends.

“But I work really hard and love what I’m doing,” she says.

When she’s not shooting concerts and fashion shows, Knudson is taking photos of her friends. She created the hashtag #TakeMorePicsOfUrFriends which encourages people to practice their photography by taking pictures of the people around them in response to up and coming photographers asking her for advice about how to improve their photography.

Posts began flooding into Knudson’s Instagram notifications. She was ecstatic to see so many people taking photos of their friends. She likes that the hashtag has grown into its own entity and doesn’t need her name attached to it.

“I’m so happy that it isn’t really about me,” Knudson says.

The hashtag stresses the importance of capturing moments regardless of the tools available. Knudson has received emails thanking her for the inspiration. Sometimes when she is feeling really inspired in return, she will send cameras to those who reach out to her.

When she scrolls through the hashtag feed on Instagram, Knudson can’t help but smile. 

The pictures are “all so cute.” Knudson even started selling merchandise for the hashtag. She doesn’t want the fire to die.

Knudson’s ultimate goal is to provide people with knowledge and inspiration. Whenever she offers someone advice, she checks in later to see how it played out.

“The most rewarding thing is having someone take my advice and seeing them soaring,” Knudson says.

She wants her talent, knowledge, and influence to long outlive her. She is motivated by the idea that “art will survive; artists won’t.”

Photos provided by Muriel Knudson.