Germantown: How One Local Photographer Traveled The World Before Opening A Gallery Back Home

Ubuntu Fine Art Gallery is Philadelphia’s first and only fine art photography gallery of a single artist’s work. Germantown native Steven CW Taylor opened Ubuntu on Sept. 5, 2020. Taylor originally began his photography journey shooting videos in the mall with friend Christian Goss. But after moving back to Philadelphia, he began experimenting with his GoPro and content creation using drones.

The Black-owned gallery is located at 5423 Germantown Ave. and displays Taylor’s photography from all over the world including places like Kenya, the Grand Canyon, and South Africa. 

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Ubuntu Art Gallery at 5423 Germantown Ave. (Adé/PN)

What inspired you to start Ubuntu?

I kind of wanted to make myself stand out in a specific way, as opposed to just being a really good photographer, as opposed to just being a really good photographer amongst the whole, amongst all of us. I wanted to have a gallery of my stuff because I felt like I had a lot to offer through it, you know, to my images so that’s pretty much the start of Ubuntu.

How would you describe your style of photography?

The style is really organic … Ya know, absorbing places and spaces and feeling moments not looking for images. Just things preferably happening in an organic nature.

How has the pandemic affected your work?

It allowed me time to really hone in on what I was doing because things were a lot more still. It just allowed me time. The gallery was supposed to open in 2019, but building delays set it back, and then the pandemic happened, right? So, with the pandemic, everything got shut down for at least six months which pushed my entire project back a year on top of it already being pushed back close to a year. So, within that two-year swing, I was able to really know what I was doing as opposed to just trying to do it.

It was a help to me, it was but it was a benefit you know. I got to go to Lamu, and you know that did something different to my spirit. So, you know I was able to bring a different kind of energy that I wouldn’t have had in 2019 into the gallery. So, you know. It kind of ties back into how out of my life my philosophy of Ubuntu. It’s just kind of all gone work and however, whatever the circumstances that are out of my control, as long as I’m prepared, I can do it.

Ubuntu Art Gallery entrance. (Adé/PN)

How has Germantown influenced your life and work?

It built me real good for the world and, you know, I’m Germantown till I die. I’m never going to be from nowhere else, probably never live anywhere else, so Germantown has done a lot for me, and especially the people in it, to help me. My God mom, the smokers, the drug dealers, you know, all kind of played a part in how I feel about this space.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s all a process and progression you know? It’s hard not to compare especially when your barometer is Instagram and the best and the brightest is in that space and sometimes you might feel you don’t stack up because you’re comparing it to someone who got 20, 30 years of experience.

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