Sisterhood At the Wilson Gallery 6 March – 12 June 2020
Danielle Salloum, artist, photographer and film-maker.
I was so fortunate to visit this exhibition on International Women’s Day 2020, listen to the stories shared by some of the inspiring women featured and to hear Danielle talk about how it came together. It’s at the Wilson until 12 June – Do go and see it!
Danielle uses artistic Interpretation and portraiture to highlight the stories of incredible women from Trinidad and Tobago and from Gloucestershire. It was wonderful – on so many levels: hearing directly from some of the women; responding to the life, energy, and character that each portrait illustrated; wondering about the relationship of trust and openness between photographer and subject; looking at the materials and techniques used to embellish the photographs.
I was also lucky to be able to talk Danielle about how she had built her career so far – This solo exhibition at the Wilson Gallery in Cheltenham at the age of 26 being the latest of a series of international exhibitions and a range of other work.
I can’t begin to share our actual conversation. I hope that Danielle will one day be available to talk to us at a Living from Art Meeting. However, I did want to share some of the themes we talked about, some resonant of similar conversations with other successful artists, and others unique to her.
Time to explore and develop creative work.
Danielle was introduced to the possibility of becoming an artist by her teacher, Mr Ellis, at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. She started off with no clear idea of what kind of artist she might be, or how to build a career as an artist, but relished the opportunity of an art foundation year at Falmouth University exploring all kinds of mediums before specialising in photography. She now produces work in many different mediums.
Learning her craft.
As with so many artists, Danielle is focused on improving her technique and has also learned to improvise, adapt and do things differently. She has learnt when simple tools and materials can be used, and where money needs to be saved up and then spent on ‘The Best’
Combining creative work with commercial work.
Danielle has worked on a wide range of commercial photo shoots. She enjoys the work, as well as benefitting financially from this part of her career and felt that her commercial experiences have all helped to develop her craft
Clarity about her vision and purpose for her art.
She sums this up as telling the important stories she feels strongly about. Having a clear purpose for the work she wants to make has helped her to promote her work and also to identify potential sponsors and other partners.
‘Lucky breaks’ and a supportive network.
Danielle is appreciative of all the different people who have helped her along her path in England and in Trinidad and Tobago and understands the need for any artist to have ‘people on their side’ whether family, friends, colleagues, tutors or mentors. She really believes it is important to build a network.
Working hard, perseverance and taking every opportunity.
During University, Danielle took up all kinds of work experience opportunities. As a member of the Wilson Art Collective, she worked extremely hard without any financial gain to put on her first International Women’s Day event and exhibition. Her experiences throughout the years, from trying out curating, having her work in group exhibitions, to having her short film selected for the T&T Film Festival while also having her work featured in magazines and the newspaper, gave her the confidence to mount her first solo exhibition in Trinidad and Tobago. She was given some initial advice on how to approach potential sponsors, but then sent out more than a 100 letters requesting sponsorship for her International Women’s Day exhibition 2019.
Entrepreneurship and identifying opportunities to make additional income from her work.
She raised sufficient funding to cover the costs of putting on this first exhibition, but realised she needed to use other methods to raise additional funds to pay her for her work. She created merchandise and sold individual pictures after the exhibition, approaching many of organisations whose stories she had helped to tell. She recognised this as something she can develop further for future exhibitions.
I hope that any artist reading this will reflect on these brief headings, be inspired, and think about how they might relate to their own development as an artist
What next for Danielle?
Danielle has already identified the women’s organisations she would like to work with on her return to Trinidad and Tobago and the stories she wants to share about people who have turned lives around through mentoring other young women. She hopes to bring this new work back to Cheltenham and make similar links with organisation here, in time for International Women’s Day 2021. I can’t wait to see it.
Anna Poulton Living from Art 09/03/20