Blog / Watch Back

Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography

POSTED: 08 December 2022

An online event celebrating the launch of three new artist commissions and poetic responses, addressing critical geopolitics of our time through photography


Artists Sim Chi Yin, Reena Saini Kallat and Laura El-Tantawy were jointly selected by Autograph and the Bagri Foundation in 2021 to create a new body of work responding to critical geopolitics of our time through photography. Their commissions explore a myriad of issues: migration and climate crises, freedom of movement, health and wellbeing, activism, social change, environmental justice, memory, hope and futurity.

Watch back the online event, celebrating the launch of the commissions and in which each artist presents on the themes and ideas present in their commissions, followed by readings of new poems in response by writers Nina Mingya Powles, Shagufta Iqbal and Nisha Ramayya.

Supported by the Bagri Foundation, this event formed part of Autograph’s commissioning project Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography, featuring new work accessioned into Autograph’s collection of photography.

part of the project

Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography

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about the artists

Sim Chi Yin

Sim Chi Yin (born 1978, Singapore) is a research-led visual artist whose interdisciplinary practice focuses on history, conflict, migration and memory, often combining photography, moving image, archival interventions and text-based performance in her multi-layered works.

Chi Yin’s work has been exhibited internationally, including at institutions and festivals such as Zilberman Gallery, Berlin; Les Rencontres d’Arles; Landskrona Foto Festival, Sweden; Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong; Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore; Nobel Peace Museum, Oslo; Aesthetica Art Prize, York Art Gallery, UK; Jendela (Visual Arts Space) Gallery, Singapore; Guangzhou Image Triennial, China; 15th Istanbul Biennial, Turkey amongst others.

Her work is in the collections of The Getty, Singapore Art Museum and the National Museum of Singapore. She was commissioned as the Nobel Peace Prize photographer in 2017. Chi Yin is represented by Zilberman Gallery in Berlin and Hanart TZ Gallery in Hong Kong. She is completing a practice-based PhD at King’s College London and is currently based between New York and Berlin.

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Reena Saini Kallat

Reena Saini Kallat (born 1973, Dehli) is concerned with ideas that hold each other in tension evolving from her interest in political and social borders — and their violent cleaving through land, people and nature resonating with the continuing aftershocks of the Partition in India, which her family experienced. Her multifaceted practice works weaves together drawing, photography, collage, sculpture, and video to create layered enquiries into culture, history, and the role that memory plays – in not only what we choose to remember but also how we think of the past.

Kallat has exhibited widely including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, Zurich; Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; SITE SantaFe, New Mexico; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Arken Museum of Modern Art, Ishøj; Helsinki City Art Museum, Helsinki amongst many others. Her works are held in collections including Musee de Beaux Arts (CA); Art Gallery of New South Wales (AU); Manchester Museum (UK); National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (TW); Vancouver Art Gallery (CA); Chau Chak Wing Museum at the University of Sydney (AU); Norrtalje Konsthal (SE); Initial Access (Frank Cohen Collection) (UK); Pizzuti Collection (CA); Burger Collection (HK); Fondazione Golinelli (IT); Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (IN); Dr. Bhau DajiLad Museum (IN); National Gallery of Modern Art (IN) amongst others. She lives and works in Mumbai, India.

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Laura El-Tantawy

Laura El-Tantawy (born 1980, Worcestershire) is a British-Egyptian documentary photographer and book maker who investigates notions of home and belonging, routinely approaching her work from a social and environmental perspective inspired by her transatlantic background. Her visual explorations often intertwine moving images, sound, and personal narratives, marked by the artist’s lyrical eye on reality.

El-Tantawy’s work In The Shadow of the Pyramids was shortlisted for Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize (2016); in 2020, she received the prestigious Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Award, as well as the PH Museum Women’s Grant. Her works have been included in exhibitions at Centro de Fotografia, Montevideo; Photo2021, Melbourne; FotoFest International Biennial, Houston; Seen Fifteen, London; Instituit des Cultures d’Islam Paris; Nuit Blanche, Brussels; The Photographers’ Gallery, London; Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool amongst others.

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about the poets

Shagufta Iqbal

Co-founder of Kiota Bristol and the Yoniverse Collective, Shagufta K Iqbal is an award-winning writer, workshop facilitator and Tedx Speaker. One of Asiana Magazine's favourite British Asian poets, she has been described by gal-dem as a poet whose work ‘leaves you validated but aching –her narratives are important, heart-wrenching and relatable.’

Her poetry collection ‘Jam Is For Girls, Girls Get Jam’ has been recommended by Nikesh Shukla as ‘a social political masterclass.’ Her poetry film 'Borders' has won several awards, and has been screened across international film festivals, including London Short Film Festival, Glasgow Short Film Festival, Athena Film Festival. She is currently writing her second poetry collection and debut novel.

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Nina Mingya Powles

is a zinemaker, writer and librarian from Aotearoa New Zealand, currently based in London. Magnolia 木蘭, her debut poetry collection, was published in 2020 and shortlisted for the Forward Prize and the New Zealand Book Awards. She is also the author of a food memoir, Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai, and a collection of essays on water, migration and belonging, titled Small Bodies of Water.

Nisha Ramayya

Nisha Ramayya grew up in Glasgow and now lives in London. Her poetry collection States of the Body Produced by Love (2019) is published by Ignota Books. Recent projects and publications include: poems in Ludd Gang (; a collaboration with sonic dramaturg MJ Harding performed at Wysing Polyphonic 2021: Under Ether (reviewed in Tank); a sequence of poems reflecting on Scotland’s colonial histories in CCA Annex; and an essay-poem in response to the work of mathematician Fernando Zalamea for Sonic Art Research Unit.

She is currently working on a second poetry collection, tentatively called Now Let’s Take a Listening Walk, and teaching Creative Writing at Queen Mary University of London.

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supported by

Supported by the Bagri Foundation and Autograph

Images on page:
1) Laura El-Tantawy, Future [detail], from the commission She Fights in the Fields, 2022, © and courtesy the artist, commissioned by Autograph for Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography (2022), supported by the Bagri Foundation. 2) Sim Chi Yin. Photo: Joel Low. 3) Reena Saini Kallat. Courtesy of the Artist. 4) Photo © Laura El-Tantawy. 5) Courtesy Shagufta Iqbal. 6) Courtesy Nina Mingya Powles. 7) Nisha Ramayya. Photograph by Jemima Yong.