After Daniel Wheeler’s mother’s death in 2012, a small inheritance allowed him to quit his day job and follow his dreams. Seven years later, he has created a thriving and essential community space for local creatives.
By Meagan Hutchinson | Image by Author @meagan_s_h
“It’s all for her,” says Daniel Wheeler. He’s showing me around the Photo Parlour, which over the last seven years has become Nottingham’s most vital resource for film photographers. Daniel is at the heart of a growing community, but he’d never have ended up here were it not for the tragic loss of his mother, Penny, back in 2012.
Daniel’s gratitude to his mother shines throughout everything he says; she was a remarkable woman, “supportive”, “kind”, “understanding” and “loving”. But she also suffered from a rare illness, systemic scleroderma and pulmonary fibrosis, which ultimately took her life. Daniel knew straight away that he wanted to build her a legacy, so he invested his £3,000 inheritance in building the Photo Parlour.
It was a huge project though, and Daniel was also able to turn to the community to ensure that the Photo Parlour saw the light of day. This reflects Daniel’s philosophy: “being rich is meaningless if you are not rich in support and love,” he says. From the very start, Daniel was inundated with donations and support from people who were as eager and as passionate as he was to make the Photo Parlour a success for everyone.
“I find it beneficial to go to the Photo Parlour because of Daniel’s wealth of knowledge” says Kayne Clarke, a long time member. This hive for local creatives is hidden amongst a colony of office spaces on the South side of the city. Outside of Scotland and London, the Photo Parlour is one of its kind, priding itself on facilitating other people’s photography through the community darkroom, one-to-one tuition, workshops and invaluable support.
“Starting this place was my way of grieving” explains Daniel, somewhat hesitantly. For a brief moment I am no longer having a conversation with the same 35 year old man who not so long ago had a beaming smile on his face whilst he whizzed around the studio pointing from left to right. It’s unimaginable to think of seeing the woman who brought you into the world and dedicated her life to supporting you take her last breath. But Daniel’s irrepressible nature means he will always look for a way to support people even at the worst of times. “Good things came out of something so tragic”, he says.
After Penny’s death his close family and friends set up the charity Penny’s fund where they help people within a certain postcode who also suffer from rare illnesses which can’t get support on the NHS. For Daniel, helping others doesn’t stop as soon as he packs up for the day. Through funding from the National Lottery, the Photo Parlour has been able to run free events and support local not-for-profit organisations and charities to shine a light on the people who need it and inject a bit of creativity into people’s lives.
An enormous sense of family and love is clear to anyone who spends more than five minutes at The Photo Parlour, and I find myself being reminded not just of what we have but also those we have lost. By turning grief into passion and drive, Daniel has given back to the community in an array of different selfless acts. But Daniel is quick to remind us that this isn’t about him.
“I work alongside a committed team of volunteers who keep the Photo Parlour buzzing away,” says Daniel, who is now spotting a customers print, whilst his loving one year old puppy, Dot, glues herself to my side. Quick to praise the volunteers and the relationships that he has made through his journey, Dan sees everyone as more of a family member then colleague. After speaking to him about his family life, it’s obvious the Photo Parlour is a home away from home for Dan. More than just a business, it’s all about giving back to and supporting people who need it, no matter their circumstances.