Commissioning Project

Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography

2021 - 22

Supported by the Bagri Foundation


A commissioning project responding to critical geopolitics – past, present, future - of our time through photography


We worked with three interdisciplinary, research-led visual artists from different global diasporas


To support mid-career artists in the making of new work and developing crucial dialogues and collaborative relationships

ABOUT THE project

Jointly selected in collaboration with the Bagri Foundation, a non-profit supporting and promoting arts and culture, three contemporary artists were commissioned to produce new photographic bodies of work. Sim Chi Yin, Reena Saini Kallat and Laura El-Tantawy were supported to develop new series that reflects their established research-led and often interdisciplinary visual art practices for Autograph's artistic programmes, and accessioned into our permanent collection of photography and shared online. They responded to an open brief, taking into consideration unfolding global politics of our time in relation to migration and climate crises, freedom of movement, health and wellbeing, activism, social change, and environmental justice, as well as memory work, hope and futurity.
Each new artist commission has been contextualised by a poetic response by Nina Mingya Powles, Shagufta Iqbal and Nisha Ramayya as well as an in-depth conversation with the artists about the making and shaping of the work. 

Join us at the online launch

Wed 16 Nov 2022, 7 - 8:30pm 
Celebrate the launch of the commissions at this free online event. Each artist will present the themes and ideas present in their commission, followed by readings of new poetic works in response.

Book free tickets

what we have accomplished so far

3 artists supported

Commissioned to create new work during this critical time

20+ new artworks created

Photography, film and more

3 writers supported

Commissioned to produce texts as part of the project

works accessioned

Works from the commissions have become part of Autograph's collection of photography

On display

Reena Saini Kallat's commission is on loan to Compton Verney, 20 Oct 2022 – 22 Jan 2023

online launch

The artist commissions and texts are free to view on Autograph's website

the commissions

Sim Chi Yin
"The suitcase is a little bit rotten" (2022)

A conceptual series of work using new and found imagery to speculate on the potentialities of transgenerational memory and inheritance. View the commission


Blue Trees [and other archival light forms]
Nina Mingya Powles' poetic response to Sim Chi Yin's commission

Time Travels Interventions in the Archive
The artist discusses "The suitcase is a little bit rotten" with Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora

Reena Saini Kallat
Pattern Recognition (2022)

Reena Saini Kallat produced a photo-based series addressing ever-shifting politics of access and inequity in the form of international travel authorisations. View the commission


Nisha Ramayya's poetic response to Pattern Recognition

Laura El-Tantawy
She Fights in the Fields (2022)

In this new series , Laura El-Tantawy looks at the after-effects of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of UK farmers with a particular emphasis on the experience of women and the challenges they face today. View the commission


Shagufta Iqbal's poetic response to Laura El-Tantawy's commission

She Fights in the Fields - Guardians of the Land
The artist discusses She Fights in the Fields with Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora

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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supported by

Supported by the Bagri Foundation and Autograph

Banner image: Sim Chi Yin, from the series "The suitcase is a little bit rotten” [detail], commissioned by Autograph for Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography (2022), supported by the Bagri Foundation.

Commissions: 1) Sim Chi Yin, from the series "The suitcase is a little bit rotten” [detail], commissioned by Autograph for Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography (2022), supported by the Bagri Foundation. 2) Reena Saini Kallat, Bangladesh [detail] from the commission Pattern Recognition, commissioned by Autograph for Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography (2022), supported by the Bagri Foundation. 3) Laura El-Tantawy, Women's Land Army Armband [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.

About the artists: 1) Sim Chi Yin. Photo: Joel Low. 2) Reena Saini Kallat. Courtesy of the Artist. 3) Photo © Laura El-Tantawy.