For 35 years, Autograph has been an agent of change within the visual arts

1988 – 2023

Autograph was founded in 1988 in London to support black photographic practices. From a small office in the Bon Marché Building in Brixton, Autograph – known then as the Association of Black Photographers – launched an ambitious programme of exhibitions, publications and events.

Between 1988 and 2007 Autograph worked as an agency to initiate projects in gallery spaces, museums, at festivals or in public sites. By this means it developed expertise in influencing policy and practice and was able to demonstrate alternative models of making and sharing creative work produced by artists from the UK and abroad. During this period, Autograph built an extensive repertoire of projects and project partners, delivered commissions, developed its permanent photographic collection and published monographs, newspapers and essay collections. Autograph also carried out strategic research and curatorial activity with large and small institutions, nationally and internationally, locating and distributing the results in the UK and abroad.

In 2007 Autograph moved to a purpose-built permanent home: Rivington Place in Shoreditch. Since then it has housed Autograph’s staff team, provides an important London showcase for our annual programmes of public exhibitions and events, storage for our collection of photography, a dedicated learning studio and a place to welcome and facilitate the many institutions, informal groups and individuals with whom we make and share cultural projects with locally, nationally and internationally.

Autograph at 35

Acting as an agent of change is still central to delivering our mission: it informs the ways in which we work, to demonstrate what can be seen and thought about differently, highlighting who and what is absent or present in visual representation; whether within national museum collections, social media stories or contemporary exhibitions and publications. We work with artists using photography and film to explore these questions.

Online and in person, Autograph is an inclusive space where the myriad stories of marginalised people are valued and cared for, presented, published, discussed and shared. Photography remains one of the most accessible entry points for all kinds of learning and cultural exploration and a powerful tool to advance this process. Autograph’s consistent, patient and painstaking work 
identifying and in some cases rescuing  key artists and archives continues to redress the ‘gaps and omissions' in photographic history, which we know exists.

No matter where you live an Autograph project is accessible via our online image galleries, blogs, audio-visual content and streamed events, alongside our publications, events, touring exhibitions, collection loans and free exhibitions at our gallery in London.

Autumn 2023 marks the 35th anniversary of Autograph. Over the next year we will be sharing more of our past history and ambitions for the future.

founding signatories

Founding signatories of Autograph in 1988:
Monika Baker
Merle Van Den Bosch
Armet Francis
Sunil Gupta
Michael Jess
George Shire
Lance Watson

The night of the signing of Autograph into a legal entity. From left to right: George Shire, Merle Van den Bosch, Sunil Gupta, Monika Baker, Armet Francis, Lance Watson and Michael Jess

Rivington Place

Autograph is located at Rivington Place in Hackney, London. When it opened in 2007, Rivington Place was both the first newly constructed public art gallery to be opened in London for 40 years, and the first purpose-built space dedicated to the development and presentation of culturally diverse arts in England.

Rivington Place was jointly commissioned by Autograph and the Institute of New International Visual Arts in 2002. It was formally opened in October 2007, by the late Professor Stuart Hall, Project Champion.

The Rivington Place Building Development Committee was chaired by Ken Dytor. We are grateful to the following organisations, artists and individual donors for their generosity which enabled us to build and equip Rivington Place.

Arts Council England Lottery Capital Fund
Barclays Bank plc (Founding Corporate Partner)
City Fringe Partnership
European Regional Development Fund
London Borough of Hackney
London Development Agency

Sonia Boyce, Isaac Julien, Glenn Ligon, Hew Locke, Carrie Mae Weems and Chris Ofili created new works for a set of 50 Limited Edition Rivington Place Portfolios in support of Rivington Place. The Portfolio was organised by Rosemary Haworth-Booth and Judith K. Brodsky of Rutgers University.

Individual donors
Ien Ang, Tony Bennett, Franco Bianchini, Paul Brookes, Hazel Carby, Augustus Casely-Hayford, Peter Clack, John Clarke, James Clifford, Jonathan Curling, Ken Dytor, Susan Field, Johan Fornäs, Shreela Ghosh, Peter Grieg, Lawrence Grossberg, Lew Hodges, Roman Horak, Paula Kahn, Naseem Khan, Ernesto Laclau, Maria Mastronardi, Chantal Mouffe, Laura Mulvey, Mica Nava, Sheila Rowbotham, Michael and Margaret Rustin, Mark Sealy, Raka Shome, Clifford Webb (Merton College), Rhonda Wilson.

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Banner image: Installation of Omar Victor Diop: Liberty / Diaspora exhibition at Autograph. 20 July – 3 Nov 2018. Curated by Renée Mussai and Mark Sealy. Photograph by Zoë Maxwell.

Founding signatories photograph by Claire Holder.