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Ubuntu Germantown: Opening of a gallery of black-owned photographs in Philadelphia

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A striking floor-to-ceiling image of Montana’s Glacier National Park is the largest work on display in the Ubuntu Art Gallery, one of the most recent additions to Germantown Avenue.

The massive centerpiece is called “The Isaac,” and it came to life after gallery owner Steven CW Taylor experienced a chance encounter while trekking 12 miles through the wilderness in 2018. Its namesake, Issac, is a close friend, but was just a stranger at the start of the Frigid Montana Trek.

“He convinced me to walk a mile off the trail, then walking a mile off the trail I took this amazing photo of a creek created by melting glaciers,” Taylor recalls.

The 39-year-old Philadelphia native opened the gallery on September 5 with a colorful ribbon cutting ceremony and a performance by local musician and entrepreneur Chill Moody.

Taylor’s Travel Photography will be the only exhibition in the gallery of fine photographs owned by a single black artist, making it a unique item in the city. And “The Isaac” is more than a beautiful photo with a great story behind it. He embodies the ethics behind Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is a South African philosophy that calls our shared existence, or as Taylor says, “the universal bond of sharing that binds all of humanity.”

Inside the gallery at 5423 Germantown Ave., visitors will find high-resolution prints from nearly two dozen countries and a few national parks that make up Taylor’s journeys from the Grand Canyon to Soweto to Johannesburg, South Africa. South.

“Every picture is a portal,” Taylor said, “you will transport yourself to a different space, a different place. Know that Horseshoe Bend in Arizona is real, it is in the United States.

Taylor grew up in the Germantown neighborhood where his art gallery now lives. He called the Chew Avenue block where he grew up “one of the most traumatized places in Philadelphia.”

Placing his type of gallery in this neighborhood was intentional. He compared Germantown to areas like Rittenhouse Square, where walking access to the fine arts is plentiful. Everyone experiences trauma, he said, but some neighborhoods do not have access to relief through the arts.

Ubuntu joins the ranks of other black-owned art galleries in Philadelphia, including October Gallery in Germantown and Urban Art Gallery on 52nd Street.

Taylor’s journey to the gallery owner has not been linear. First, he is an engineer by trade. Good type of. “My degree is in criminal justice,” said the Saint Peter’s College graduate.

After a brief stint as a Corrections Officer in Washington, he was hired for a data job at prestigious consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. He rose through the ranks until he described it as a challenging and comfortable high-level engineering position.

He left in April, and now uses his engineering mind to approach photography.

“I didn’t come to the camera in the guise of an artist,” Taylor said. “I got there as an engineer. How does the machine work? How can I get the desired result from this machine? “

Entering the next step in his professional journey, Taylor once again relies on Ubuntu, the idea that “people are people through other people,” he explained.

“I’m not self-taught, I learned from others,” Taylor said. “I am an engineer because other people have freely given me their intellect. I am a photographer because other people have freely given me their intellect.

Taylor wanted to appeal to his art for a wide range of consumers and collectors. Pieces cost anywhere from $ 150 for a 12 × 18 inch print to $ 6,500 for a 48 × 72 inch, ready-to-hang, acrylic backing. They are made using archival paper and archival ink, which Taylor says can last up to 150 years with proper care and conditions. Each print comes with gloves, care instructions and a certificate of authenticity, and is one of 60 limited editions.

The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Thursday to Sunday and by appointment from Monday to Wednesday.

Access to the Ubuntu Fine Art gallery is also free. Taylor hopes that by exposing his community more to high-end art and international landscapes, he can give freely to those who walk through the gallery.

“I wanted that same access to be available to people in my community,” Taylor said. “That way you can walk into the gallery, you can kind of lose yourself in the traumatized world that is outside those doors, and through each picture you can transplant yourself to a different place.”