Commissioning Project

Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography

2021 - 22

Supported by the Bagri Foundation


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


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


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

ABOUT THE project

Autograph is developing a series of artist commissions with the provisional title Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography.

Jointly selected in collaboration with the Bagri Foundation, a non-profit supporting and promoting Asian arts and culture, three contemporary artists from diverse cultural backgrounds have been commissioned to produce new photographic bodies of work for our artistic programmes, which will be accessioned into Autograph’s permanent collection of photography and shared online.

The commissioned artists – Sim Chi Yin, Reena Saini Kallat and Laura El-Tantawy – are supported to develop new series that reflects their established research-led and often interdisciplinary visual art practices.

They were invited to respond 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 will be contextualised by a scholarly essay, and curatorial in-conversations with the artists about the making and shaping of the work. The commissions will be launched digitally in early autumn 2022, with a dedicated public programme event.

about the artists and commissions

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.

Read More

Work in progress from Chronotopia [detail] 

Chronotopia (working title)

A birth, a death. What is lost, what is passed on? Using new and found imagery, this conceptual work speculates on the potentialities of inter-generational memory and inheritance, between the artist’s socialist grandfather — a political activist in British Malaya executed for his politics during the Cold War — and her son born in London at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and who resurrects a trace of his forgotten great-grandfather not least through the name he was given. Intervening with an archive of magic lantern slides from the early 1900s as precarious sites of re-imagining and photographic time travel, the artist creates a fantastical time-space visual repertoire, a palimpsest of childhood, trauma, futurity and the long legacies of colonial violence.

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.

Read More

Work in progress from Common Ground

Common Ground (working title)

In the new photo-based series, Reena Saini Kallat addresses ever-shifting politics of access and inequity in the form of international travel authorisations. This conceptual, digital collage-based body of work reflects on the global order through the trope of mobility and passports as portals to the world. While national borders have appeared recurrently in her work, here they appear not as fences or barricades hoisted on land but as constraints produced through privileges and policy. Kallat contemplates on how the pandemic has revealed not just our deep disconnect with the natural world but has exposed new boundaries between nations, and new defences between the self and the world. For her multi part photo-work, Kallat draws upon this uneven statistics and policy landscape of global mobility gap, to sketch an identikit of our divided and unequal planet.

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.

Read More

Work in progress from She Fights in the Fields

She Fights in the Fields (working title)

She Fights in the Fields is the latest instalment in Laura El-Tantawy’s extensive series I’ll Die For You — a long-term body of work which explores climate change through the experience of small farming communities and the intimate bond between them and land. In this new series of photographs in progress, 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. The commission enables El-Tantawy to explore a different direction and gendered focus within this ongoing international project, incorporating research materials relating to UK rural life and archival documents reflecting the history of political propaganda.

coming up

online launch

The artist commissions and texts will be published on Autograph's website

works accessioned

Artworks from the commissions will become part of Autograph's collection of photography

writer commissions

Three writers will be commissioned to contribute texts to the project


Can you spare a few moments? Autograph is carrying out a survey to better understand who our digital audiences are. The survey should take no longer than five minutes to complete. Anything you tell us will be kept confidential, is anonymous and will only be used for research purposes.

The information you provide will be held by Autograph and The Audience Agency, who are running the survey on our behalf. In compliance with GDPR, your data will be stored securely and will only be used for the purposes it was given.

You can take the survey here. Thank you!

supported by

Supported by the Bagri Foundation and Autograph

Banner image: 1) Sim Chi Yin, work in progress from Chronotopia [detail]

Aboout the artists and commissions images: 2) Sim Chi Yin. Photo: Joel Low. 2) Sim Chi Yin, work in progress from Chronotopia [detail]. 3) Reena Saini Kallat. Courtesy of the Artist. 4) Reena Saini Kallat, work in progress from Common Ground. 5) Photo © Laura El-Tantawy. 6) Laura El-Tantawy, work in progress from from She Fights in the Fields.

Discover more images: 7) Mónica de Miranda, Dressage [detail], from The Island. © the artist. Courtesy of / commissioned by Autograph, 2021. Supported by Art Fund. 8) Silvia Rosi's, from Neither Could Exist Alone [detail], 2020. © and courtesy the artist, commissioned by Autograph for Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other. 9) Ingrid Pollard, The Valentine Days [detail], commissioned by Autograph.