Steven C.W. Taylor, the 2023 Visual Journalist of the Year, captures the essence of Ubuntu, “I am because we are,” through his vibrant experiences and artistry. His work not only reflects the beauty and resilience of the Black community but also stands as a timeless testament to the power of photography.

Steven C.W. Taylor in Ubuntu Fine Art Gallery. (GIH | Jordan Manson)

Steven C.W. Taylor is a mosaic–a collection of colorful encounters and experiences contributing to Ubuntu’s overarching theme: “I am because we are.” He is who he is because of his East Germantown mannerisms and memories. He is who he is because of his immersive escapades across 19 different countries, one of which he spent his night sleeping in a bush with the Messiah. 

His influence is evident after stepping into Ubuntu Fine Art Gallery and seeing his eyes blinking excitedly like his camera snaps while explaining the significance of his East Meets West exhibition being printed on handmade Japanese washi paper. Steven C.W. Taylor won the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists’ 2023 Visual Journalist of the Year Award for capturing the Black communities around him.

While Taylor was shocked to hear the line “congratulations” before even realizing the celebration, Britney Coleman, the Executive Producer of the PABJ Awards Gala, was confident in the organization’s decision. 

“Steven C.W. Taylor was the perfect choice for this honor because, for years, he’s been successful in producing visual art that accurately and beautifully represents Black people. But beyond his craft, Steven has been instrumental in engaging the local Black community in his own backyard and inspiring others to invest in the arts,” said Coleman. 

This momentous occasion positions Taylor’s career in a multifaceted direction. Being so immersed in his art’s mission, he did not realize that his work was recognized as journalism. However, it is an honor that he accepts responsibly. Having an eye for the bigger picture, Taylor understands that the PABJ award is a great way to highlight the community and culture of Germantown alongside the Ubuntu spirit.

“I only want to exude an idea of peace and positivity amongst the visual image of what Blackness is. In my contemporary time, if I archive it right, future humans would be able to reference the joy of Blackness the same way that I photographed it, no matter what the narrative of that thing is,” said Taylor. 

In hearing his testimonials and seeing the vulnerability of his photographs, it’s comforting to see the delicate technique Taylor uses to elevate the matters around him. He has mastered a balancing act in exposing the limitations imposed on the Philadelphia community while concurrently highlighting the beauty in grit. To achieve this, he relies on friends’ advice to keep him grounded throughout his journey. 

It takes a village. His muses, his support system, the Germantown community; everyone is connected to the Ubuntu ideology. Taylor illustrates this intimacy in an air of simplicity. With his subject being so raw and real, the intention is for people to become completely enveloped in the experience. 

“I want to make it simple enough so that individuals aren’t intimidated when they come in. Right?… They can relate to it. And this is just an inception point; this is an access point to encourage individuals who don’t frequent Artspace to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to go to the Barnes Foundation… And you can decide whether you’d like it or not,” said Taylor. 

Witnessing Taylor’s whirlwind of recognition inspires the discussion: how did Ubuntu begin?

While finishing a day in a South African restaurant, Taylor overheard a political conversation between two men: one who supported Mandela and one who did not. Even in opposition, the companionship and respect between the two flipped a switch for Taylor. The photographer appreciated the rarity in this mutual understanding and has made it his mission to reproduce its essence in his following endeavors.  

Taylor’s ability to capture one beautiful moment in less than 1/500 of a second that can withstand years of societal changes is expertise. His photography catalyzes Black luxury for its possessors, their possessors, and so on. In dedication to his daughter, Parker, the legacy of Taylor and the Ubuntu Fine Art Gallery is a fire that will never lose its flame.

“I want to be remembered forever. If you buy a piece of mine, and it lasts for 300 years and you bequeath that to six generations of your last name, I never died. I’m still here, you know?” said Taylor.

The 2023 PABJ Awards Gala, where Taylor will officially receive his award, takes place on Saturday, November 11, at the Museum of the American Revolution.