Sport is Beautiful
“Well you’re blonde, so as long as the pictures come out well then I’d say you’ve got a good chance of getting in the national press’.
“As a GB athlete in the minority sport of canoeing we rarely got coverage. Towards the end of my career I was doing the annual Devizes to Westminster 125 mile race, which is the canoeing equivalent of the ironman (!) and I’d set a couple of records. It really looked like we might get coverage and during an interview with a national newspaper I asked how likely it was that we would get featured. That’s what came out of the Journalist’s mouth. It stunned me – it wasn’t enough to be beating most of the men in an 18-hour canoe race, I had to look fab too. Needless to say I didn’t pose for the pics and so we didn’t get featured.”
These are the words of Danielle Sellwood, the inspirational driving force behind the Sport is Beautiful media campaign. It’s a powerful campaign, hitting above its weight, involving high level partners KPMG in a spectacular showcase of female athletes’ strength, skills courage and commitment. We managed to catch Danielle to find out a bit more about the campaign:
This campaign is really exciting.
Where did the idea for Sport is Beautiful emerge from?
Several events collided, my background is in art and design and I worked as a sportswear designer for many years before setting up the online magazine Sportsister. I guess you could say that visuals are my thing. It feels like everything I have done up to now has brought me to this point – to the point of creating and putting everything into Sport is Beautiful.
I hate it when I see an impressive, inspirational athlete reduced to a picture that says ‘she looks good in a frock’. It happens so often and I want to offer an alternative. I called the project Sport Is Beautiful because that’s the point – we should be celebrating all that is incredible about sport, what it can offer you, how enriching it can be. I want people to look at the pictures and think ‘I want to do that’ “I want to feel that’ “I want to be her”.
Why do you think Sport is Beautiful is needed in the 21st century?
It shouldn’t be needed, as a child of the sixties, at school and college in the 70/80’s it fees to me like women have taken a massive step back, but things are changing and with the rise of many other projects around women’s profile in society generally, it feels totally the right thing to be doing this.
How is this campaign different to other campaigns promoting women in sport, for example #thisgirlcan?
ThisGirlCan is aimed at women and girls who are not currently inspired by sport, whereas the Sport Is Beautiful project is very much celebrating those that are engaged, it is unashamedly about the elite and the role models. Currently these women are under represented in the media generally; Sport Is Beautiful is about giving them a platform. The project will inspire women and girls who already GET sport. If I can inspire one 15 year old who is about to drop out of sport due to peer pressure – if I can give her the confidence to think – yes, I want a part of that, then I will be happy. It’s important to have our campaign and #thisgirlcan – they’re doing different jobs. The problem with the women’s sports industry is that there is an assumption that we are all the same somehow and that there is just one answer to the issues – obviously we are not and there is not! Different things inspire different people!
Some people might way that campaigns like this are part of women playing on a victim mentality. What would you say to this?
I don’t get this question…Far from being the victim, we are fighting back. The women in the photos that we are presenting are the polar opposite of victims, they are strong, successful, independent and inspiring women. The point of the project is to get images like this in front of as many people as we can, so with the KPMG exhibition that’s recently happened 8000 people a day saw some incredible images of a strong sports women. If the exhibition did not exist what’s the chance of that? What else are they likely to be bombarded with? Photoshopped, unrealistic imagery is everywhere – we want to present an alternative.
What is the future of Sport is Beautiful?
To get as many people to see an amazing and inspiring image or film of women in sport as possible. We have several events and projects planned over the coming months and we are starting to commission our own shoots so we can add to the small bank of images that are currently out there. Keep an eye out on the Women’s Sport Trust website and the @Sport_Beautiful Twitter feed for announcements around May/June.
Some of the images are absolutely stunning. How can this project go further, so that more people are exposed to powerful strong women, so these images are normalised?
We are currently after funding to make this happen, our aim is to reach as wide an audience as possible and we are looking at creative ways of doing this. As we grow we aim to make imagery like this accessible to all – watch this space.
What would you say to photographers taking photos of women in sport?
Please get in touch and share with me. We want to promote and celebrate the best. Our aim is to set the standard in how sportswomen are represented. We want to see stunning, imaginative photos – essentially the criteria are that your photo should feature a woman or girl and make the viewer think ‘WOW, I want to do that’. We are starting to do some commissions too, so although we can’t work with everyone there will be opportunities. Exhibitions are one of our ambitions, so there’s always a chance of being featured there too.
Are there any ways that ordinary men and women can promote the campaign or have an impact?
Yes! At this stage people can help very simply by helping spread the imagery that we promote on Facebook and Twitter – talk about the project. Then when we are at the next stage there will be some really exciting and innovative ways of getting involved. From a business point of view we are also looking at small and affordable sponsorship packages that mean businesses that want to support can have an opportunity to get involved. We want to make this a project that everyone can help make happen. Right now and going forward it would be great if your readers would tweet us their pictures via @sport_beautiful on Twitter #BeAGameChanger.
Danielle Sellwood is the Visual Campaigns Director at the Women’s Sport Trust. In 2013 she created the Sport Is Beautiful Project, which now forms part of the Women’s Sport Trust campaign. This outstanding campaign is a celebration of women in photograph and film. In 2008 Danielle co-founded Sportsister.com, previously she worked in sports trend forecasting at WGSN.com and was a sports wear designer for many years for brands including Puma, Marks and Spencer and Converse. She has spoken at global sports conferences and is a long-standing judge for the ISPO Sports Design awards. Danielle was a GB canoeist for several years and now enjoys many different sports including surfing, running, cycling and pretty much anything outdoors.
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