Sim Chi Yin (b. 1978) is the granddaughter of a photographer and journalist killed during China’s civil war. This history, taboo in her family for decades during the Cold War, eventually drew her back to China from her native Singapore. For the past decade she has been based in this, the world’s most dynamic country, forging intimate bonds with people and chronicling change from the ground up.

A sensitive and versatile storyteller, Chi Yin’s work is intimate, investigative, and decodes cultures. She regularly does commissioned work for leading global publications like The New York Times Magazine, TIME and Harpers. In recent years, her own longer-form photo and film work has been shown in museums, galleries and photo festivals in Asia, the US and Europe, including a show at the Istanbul Biennale in 2017. She also teaches and does speaking engagements at festivals, corporations and conferences.

Chi Yin was the inaugural Magnum Foundation Human Rights and Photography fellow at New York University in 2010 and a finalist for the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography in 2013. She was listed as one of 30 emerging photographers globally by Photo District News in 2013 and in British Journal of Photography’s “Ones to Watch” in 2014. That year, she was Her World Magazine’s “Young Woman Achiever of the Year”. 

Chi Yin read history at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She was a newspaper staff writer and foreign correspondent for 9 years before quitting to be an independent visual storyteller.

She is particularly interested in history, memory, and migration and its consequences, working in photography, film, sound, text and archival material.

She’s currently working on a book on her grandfather, his compatriots and their anti-colonial battle in British Malaya, and a global project on sand. She’s also experimenting with virtual reality.



Her work has the potential to bring insights from within a culture that is often difficult to penetrate emotionally. She is not an outsider trying to get in. She is already inside. She can turn the lights on.

Sarah Leen, director of photography at National Geographic magazine, in the British Journal of Photography, 2014.

Her work is of staggering power, honesty and sensitivity. Whether it’s puncturing lies, dissecting truths, inspiring thought or shedding light, her richly textured stories have always surfaced the subtle, decoded the complex, and read between the lines. She brings into her work a unique range of qualities: the sharpness of a journalist, the rigour and empathy of an anthropologist, the poetry of an artist, the intellect of a historian and a cultural affinity unsurpassed. Her own world as an independent storyteller is intense, gripping, and not without her fair share of struggles. But she cuts through them with a sense of purpose. 

Aw Siyuan, Deputy Head of Planning, BBH Shanghai

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