Community, collaboration and a real passion for photography is how David George and Fiona Yaron-Field describe the ethos at Uncertain States, the artist cooperative they co-founded with fellow photographer Spencer Rowell in 2009.
Through exhibitions, talks and a quarterly broadsheet, the group aims to nurture critical dialogue on photography and promote work that reflects key social and political concerns.
Available in galleries and museums across the UK, the Uncertain States broadsheet presents work by lens-based artists looking for an alternative platform to show their images outside of the commercial gallery system.
“The photography scene here is incredibly rich but I think underrepresented by the big institutions like the Photographers’ Gallery,” George says. “The newspaper isn’t glossy, there are no ads and it’s not for profit and that’s been really important in enabling us to show the type of work we’ve wanted to show. Above all it’s about the dissemination of ideas.”
Now Uncertain States is celebrating its fourth year with an exhibition at the Bank Gallery in Whitechapel showcasing works by 28 photographers who have contributed to the broadsheet.
It includes works from photographer Tom Hunter’s Life and Death in Hackney (2000), a series of melancholic images loosely based on Pre-Raphaelite paintings which depict the lives of travellers in the post-industrial landscape of the Lea Valley in the East End.
Photographer John Goto’s portraits of young people taken at Friday night dances at Lewisham Youth Centre in 1977 are also featured. Named after the musical sub-genre that emerged from the South London reggae scene in the 1970s, Goto’s series Lovers’ Rock initially met with little interest from potential exhibitors but has recently been praised for offering a counter-narrative to the dominant image of black youth at the time.
Uncertain States co-founder Fiona Yaron-Field is well aware of the problems artists can face in getting works featuring particular subject matters exhibited in commercial galleries.
She recalls being told that her body of work based on her experiences raising a child with Down’s syndrome was not ‘sexy’ enough for the gallery space. Her portraits of pregnant women carrying children with Down’s syndrome entitled Safe Haven are also on show at the Bank Gallery.
“Uncertain States is really a nomadic thing, a network to support photographic practice,” Yaron-Field explains, adding that the cooperative also holds free talks with photographers and filmmakers on the first Tuesday of every month upstairs at the Cat & Mutton on Broadway Market in Hackney.
Uncertain States is at Bank Gallery E1 7PF from 8-30 November