Initiated during the first months of lockdown in 2020, Autograph commissioned ten UK-based creative practitioners - Mohini Chandra, Poulomi Desai, Joy Gregory, Othello De’Souza-Hartley, Sonal Kantaria, Ope Lori, Dexter McLean, Karl Ohiri, Silvia Rosi and Aida Silvestri - to create new work in response to the wider contexts of the Covid-19 crisis.
The interdisciplinary artworks they produced represent thoughtful reflections on changing conditions of existence: generous invitations for us to think about what it means to be human and to care for one another. Using primarily photography and video, the artists reflect both carefully and critically – and often very personally – on the impact of the pandemic, exploring ideas of loss, family, home, belonging and diaspora while considering different lived experiences, and the inevitability of change.
Autograph's curatorial team Mark Sealy, Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora spent a year working closely with the artists to support the creation of new work. We also invited ten writers – each paired with one of the artists – to produce a short essay reflecting on these artworks, and conducted a series of interviews with each artist about their practice. The project has since been shared online, published in a new book, and presented as a group exhibition at Autograph's gallery in London.
The artist commissions reflect Autograph’s long-standing mission advocating for photography and film to address visual politics of rights, race and representation.
Mohini Chandra's work deals with articulations of identity and globalised spaces, and the role of the photographic in relation to memory and migration. Her research-led practice is fuelled by a sustained interest in photographic histories and the processes of visual culture within colonial, anthropological and ethnographic discourses. In her commissioned film Belated, Chandra offers a visual mediation on ideas of place and belonging during the global pandemic. View the commission.
I let the pitcher drift away
Curator Dr Sushma Jansari reflects on the poetics of Belated and how the pandemic may shape our understanding of the past, present and future
When Everything Fell Silent: In Conversation with Mohini Chandra
The artist speaks with Autograph's curatorial project manager Bindi Vora about the commission
is a multimedia artist whose activist community-based practice often utilises performance, language, photography, and sound to create art advocacy projects.
For Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Poulomi Desai created a series of images inoculated with bacteria, considering how we might attempt to control the uncontrollable. View the commission.
Life, Death and Everything in Between
Curator Tarini Malik responds to Desai's new commission
Our Cultures are the Portals: In Conversation with Poulomi Desai
Autograph's director Mark Sealy speaks with the artist about her practice, and the metaphor of the petri dish in the context of control, nurture and care
is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice explores the wider cultural politics of identity, race and gender. Her practice employs photographic media – both analogue and digital – from still to moving image and camera-less photography alongside installation, objects and sound.
Gregory created Madam Photo for the commission, a diary-like series of photographic and textual fragments drawn from her daily walks and encounters during lockdown. View the commission.
Curator and writer Anne McNeill responds to Madam Photo and the importance of creative acts of self-care and seeking respite in a global pandemic
Isolation, Distance, Encounters, Invention: In Conversation with Joy Gregory
Autograph's director Mark Sealy speaks with the artist
Othello De'Souza-Hartley is a visual artist whose artistic vocabulary encompasses photography, film, performance, sound, drawing and painting. Working across multiple interdisciplinary platforms, his practice is concerned with ideas around the human body as a site of embodiment, often engaging with self-portraiture, masculinity and vulnerability as visually performed ideas.
For Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, De’Souza-Hartley reflected on the notion of stillness, loss and how to navigate grief. View the commission.
In That Green
Poet Raymond Antrobus reflects on De'Souza-Hartley's commission with a personal reflection on how grief may shape our sense of time, and being
In Search of Stillness: In Conversation with Othello De'Souza-Hartley
The artist speaks with Autograph’s senior curator Renée Mussai about the artist’s creative practice and the process of making Blind, but I can See
is a British Indian visual artist whose practice explores themes of movement, settlement, representation, and cultural identity. Her interdisciplinary research-led practice is concerned with history, trauma, and memory, investigating different forms of resistance through photography, video and text.
Kantaria's commission Ghar considers what 'home' might mean during a global pandemic and how it relates to her cultural heritage. View the commission.
City, Country, City
Lola Young weaves together ideas and memories of 'home' in her personal response to Kantaria’s Ghar
On Care, Memory and Place: In Conversation with Sonal Kantaria
Kantaria speaks with Autograph's director Mark Sealy
Ope Lori works across visual arts, activism, and academia, using lens-based media to investigate politics of difference, often in relation to cultural and sexual identity. Her research-led practice, which includes writing as well as image-making, invites viewers to question power dynamics in both private and public spheres, routinely challenging societal stereotypes, and myths. Lori created two performative film works for the commission that explore a shared lineage of philosophy between father and daughter inspired by Paolo Freire’s seminal book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. View the commission.
Transformations: In My Father’s House
Autograph's senior curator Renée Mussai reflects on Lori’s transgressive double performance in her new films
Notions of Becoming: In Conversation with Ope Lori
Artist and filmmaker Campbell X speaks with Ope Lori about the politics of sexual and cultural difference in Lori's artistic practice
is a photographer whose socially engaged practice is concerned with the representation of black and disabled communities. Drawing from his own lived experiences, he creates photographic portraits that emphasise the challenges and societal myths disabled people face in contemporary society. For this commission, McLean reflected on the every-day impact of Covid-19 within his community of close family and friends. View the commission.
On Photographer and Activist Dexter McLean
Artist and educator Dave Lewis reflects on McLean's commission, considering politics of representation, disability and the black body
Photography and Parity: In Conversation with Dexter McLean
Autograph's director Mark Sealy speaks with the artist
Karl Ohiri is a British Nigerian artist whose multifaceted practice focuses on the human condition and explores different social functions of art. Notions of self/other are central to his work, which routinely incorporate photography, video, text and everyday. For Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Ohiri developed a conceptual artwork that proposes a sociological equation for humanity. View the commission.
The Oneness of Things
Curator Loren Hansi Gordon's reflects on Ohiri's new commission
What it Means to Be Human: In Conversation with Karl Ohiri
The artist speaks with Autograph’s curatorial project manager Bindi Vora about the process of producing his new commission, and the importance of care and community
works with photography, text and moving image to explore ideas of memory, migration and diaspora. Inspired by West African studio photography, Rosi’s practice explores personal history through self-portraiture, drawing on her Togolese heritage and family traditions, especially matrilineality, and women’s labour.
In her commission, Rosi reflected on the different structures we build to protect ourselves and how the absence of touch can affect our social behaviour. View the commission.
Performing a Lockdown: The Self and the Camera
Writer and educator Krasimira Butseva reflects on how actions performed in isolation become rituals for survival in Rosi's new commission
On Structural Isolation: In Conversation with Silvia Rosi
Autograph's curatorial project manager Bindi Vora speaks with the artist
Aida Silvestri creates mixed-media artworks that challenge the status quo of stigma, prejudice and social injustice in relation to issues of race, class, identity and health – often combining text, image and experimental techniques to manipulate the photographic surface. For Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Silvestri created a multifaceted body of work that explores the devastating impact of Covid-19 on frontline workers of colour, linking the present with the past. View the commission.
The Rhetorical Fallacy of Inclusion
Scholar Anthony Downey reflects on structural inequalities, and the imperial nature of the pandemic's rhetoric of inclusion as addressed in Silvestri's commission
If We Care Enough [To Look]: In Conversation with Aida Silvestri
Autograph's senior curator Renée Mussai speaks with the artist
The ten artists’ work have been brought together for the first time in a new group exhibition at Autograph’s gallery in Hackney, open between 23 September 2021 - 12 February 2022 and curated by Renée Mussai, Mark Sealy and Bindi Vora.
Read more + book tickets
We worked with local design studio Fraser Muggeridge to publish a new anthology of the project, featuring all ten artist commissions and twenty-two texts. Available from Autograph's gallery and our online shop.Shop
Highlighting the importance of centring black, Indigenous, feminist, queer and other marginalised voices and storytelling in photography. With talks by project artists Ope Lori, Silvia Rosi, Sonal Kantaria, Mohini Chandra and Othello De'Souza-hartley.Watch on our blog
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Autograph is a place to see things differently. Since 1988, we have championed photography that explores issues of race, identity, representation, human rights and social justice, sharing how photographs reflect lived experiences and shape our understanding of ourselves and others.Donate Join our mailing list