Four Corners is a large building situated at 121 Roman Road in Bethnal Green, East London. A haven for lens-based media, it’s a charitable organisation that boasts a rentable gallery, photographic studios, darkroom facilities and kit to hire; from slick industry standard filming equipment, to wind-up Bolex cameras from the early twentieth century. A huge space, yet packed to the rafters with creative talent: artists, commercial photographers, post production teams and photographic printers all take up residence here, and the corridors are teeming with individuals participating in any one of their several funded programmes. The professionals working from the building feed their industry knowledge and experience back into the training and development programmes, fuelling their own unique brand of symbiosis.
The organisation supports both moving image and photography, the combined focus of two originally separate co-operatives founded in the 70s, Four Corners and Camerawork. You can’t help but become affected by the hugely collaborative mood both inside the building and out, as those connected with it speak with such love of the place. Incredibly it has retained the co-operative structure and attitude which was so important for its parent organisations in the 70s, particularly special when so many other examples simply haven’t survived from the era.
Dave Than works as the Exhibitions and Projects Manager at Four Corners. He co-curates gallery exhibitions and works within the programming team to develop a number of funded initiatives which includes an archive project, a development programme for London-based practitioners and a series of artist residencies. On a sunny afternoon in early spring I met with Dave and his wonderfully energetic 4-year-old daughter, and found myself initiated with a scooter race down the length of the building’s corridor. We discussed the social landscape into which the organisations were born, what Four Corners is doing to support photography today, and the nature of its programmes which have become so popular.