“Rat Tribe” explores the lives of low-waged migrant workers who live underground in Beijing and make up one-third of the city’s estimated 20 million people. These waiters, karaoke hostesses, hairdressers, chefs, security guards, domestic workers and kitchen helpers are the backbone of Beijing’s service industry. But they have been unkindly dubbed the “rat tribe” for making a home in Beijing’s 6,000 basements and air raid shelters — about one-third of the city’s underground space.
Sim Chi Yin is a visual author focused on documentary projects in Asia. She is particularly interested in history and memory, migration and transience.
A fourth-generation overseas Chinese born and raised in Singapore, schooled in London and now based in Beijing for the past eight years, Chi Yin feels both southeast Asian and Chinese, and is curious about where cultures meet and blend or diverge.
Her work has been screened at photo festivals in Arles and Perpignan, and exhibited at PhotoVille in New York, the Annenberg Space in Los Angeles, Paris Photo, Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, and at festivals in China. She has spoken and taught at festivals and schools in the US, Europe and Asia.
She has done photography, video and multimedia commissions for TIME, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Le Monde and The New Yorker, among other top international publications, as well as NGO clients. Her personal work is more long-form and presented as books, installations and projections.
Chi Yin was a 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 PDN30 and in the Ones to Watch list by the British Journal of Photography in 2014. That year, she was Her World Magazine’s Young Woman Achiever of the Year.
She was a World Press Photo jury member for documentary categories in 2016.
Chi Yin was trained as a historian, finishing two degrees in International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent for The Straits Times, Singapore’s national English language daily, for nine years before quitting to be an independent story-teller.