Our unique collection charts the contributions of diverse cultures in Britain over two centuries

Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi, from the series East End Portraits, 1950-1980.

Joy Gregory, from the series Autoportrait, 1989-90. Commissioned by Autograph.

about the collection

Since we were founded in 1988, Autograph has collected photographic material which reflects our mission and addresses gaps in the visual representation of Britain’s cultural history and its diverse communities. The remit for the collection is to collect, preserve and disseminate the work of contemporary artists and to make available historical images that add to public understanding of how photography relates to cultural identity, representation, human rights and social justice.

We do this through
•  Commissioning the production of new work from contemporary artists, which then enter our collection to create the archive of the future
•  Researching historical and contemporary photographs, to add to the body of knowledge and visual records which provide evidence of black presences

Autograph's collection contains photographic works made by renowned fine artists, social documentary and high street studio photographers, plus personal family albums and vernacular imagery. It covers key periods in the formation of culturally diverse communities in Britain, including the post-war Windrush generation and Victorian era. We hold work by artists including Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Zanele Muholi, James Barnor, Lina Iris Viktor, Yinka Shonibare, Ingrid Pollard, Joy Gregory, Colin Jones, Phoebe Boswell, Raphael Albert, Ajamu – and many more.

The collection currently contains approximately 5,000 prints, 10,000+ negatives, 5,000 slides, archive film, several thousand contact sheets, plus related ephemera. As we add to it by commissioning new work, the exact number of objects in the collection is always growing.

James Barnor, Untitled #2, two friends dressed for a church celebration, Accra, 1970s.

Raphael Albert, Miss Black & Beautiful Sybil McLean with fellow contestants, Hammersmith Palais, London, 1972.

what the collection is used for


The collection informs curation at Autograph, inspiring exhibitions at our gallery and touring internationally


Works from our collection have featured in outdoor displays on Autograph's building in London and at partner venues


Schools & learning

The collection is used in our schools programme: from archive visits to acting as inspiration for students creating their own art


Autograph produces free educational resources which reference  selected works in our collection


Each year we loan numerous artworks from our collection to museums and galleries in the UK and abroad


Autograph researches and publishes books and newspapers related to our collection


digital sharing

A selection of works from our collection are shared on Autograph's website

Zanele Muholi, Bayephi III, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, 2017. Commissioned by Autograph.

Monica de Miranda, Double Force from the series The Island, 2021. Commissioned by Autograph.

frequently asked questions

How can I see the collection? Autograph's collection is shared widely through exhibitions, loans, touring exhibition, publishing, digitally, and through our education and outreach programmes. You can also view 100+ works from our collection on ArtUK.

Can I visit the collection? Due to space and staff constraints, we are unable to accommodate visits to the collection.

Can I borrow a work from the collection for an exhibition? For loan requests, contact us at info@autograph-abp.co.uk with details about the artwork and exhibition.

Is the collection available online? A catalogue is not available online, however you can see works in our online galleries, collection highlights, artist commissions and blog.

Can I license an image from the collection?
For any reproduction requests, first get in touch at info@autograph-abp.co.uk with details about the image and any details about the publication you would like to license it for use within and we will send you initial information about our terms.

How is the collection cared for? The collection is held at Autograph's iconic building Rivington Place in London. The works are stored in a purpose-built, climate controlled space, looked after by our curatorial team and a freelance conservation specialist.

Read More

Ingrid Pollard, The Valentine Days #1 from the series The Valentine Days, 2017. Commissioned by Autograph.

Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, from the series Digital Clouds Don't Carry Rain [detail], 2021 – ongoing.

support for the collection

We are grateful to the funders, national partners, artists, individuals, estates and communities who have generously supported Autograph's collection and archive research over 35 years. This has enabled us to:
•  Commission new artworks for the collection
•  Acquire works to fill ‘gaps' in British photographic history
•  Research diverse photographic practices
•  Help secure Autograph's collection into the future and preserve the knowledge it contains
•  Share the collection with numerous institutions, communities and individuals

Support has included major grants from
The National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2006, 2012, 2016, and 2018.

Sunil Gupta, The New Pre-Raphaelites, Untitled #05, 2008. Commissioned by Autograph.

Ajamu, Bodybuilder in Bra, from the series Black Bodyscapes, 1990. Commissioned by Autograph.

Related content

Collection highlights

Highlights from Autograph's collection, with in depth context and information

View highlights

Time Travels in Agency, Advocacy and Acquisition

Autograph's director, Professor Mark Sealy, traces thirty years of advocacy work and its impact

Read | 7 min read

Artist commissions

Commissioning artists is key to our work at Autograph, and how we build our collection

View artist commissions

Banner image: 1) Photographs in Autograph's collection. 

Collection images are © the artist and courtesy the artist and Autograph, London