The Sikh Project launches in New York
All photos by Amit and Naroop
The Sikh Project is the next stage of The Singh Project. The Singh Project, which exhibited in the UK in 2014, featured thirty-six photographs of British Sikh men. Photographers Amit & Naroop captured the diversity of how the beard and the turban were worn by modern Sikh men, and how they have been adapted to fit the style of the individual.
In 2015, they partnered with The Sikh Coalition in New York and after a year of discussion and planning, they began to photograph American Sikhs. But this time, they featured Sikh women too. As a result, the titled changed from the Singh project, to The Sikh Project.
The Sikh project will be exhibiting in New York at 530 Broadway, Soho from 17th – 25th September 2016.
“In America, Sikhs are not always viewed in the same positive light as they are in the UK. American Sikhs face abuse, misunderstanding and bigotry based on their articles of faith. The American public in large still don’t fully understand what and who a Sikh is.”
SOME OF THE AWESOME PHOTOGRAPHS :[left to right]
Ishprit Kaur is a new nurse graduate in Connecticut. She was inspired to go into this field because her mother is also in the profession and because her father is battling Parkinson’s.
Lathan Dennis-Singh is a retired engineer, he was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and was good friends with Bob Marley. He converted to Sikhism over 48 years ago at his college in Michigan and has been living in Fairfax, Virginia for nearly three decades.
Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi was born in India and moved to New Jersey when he was two. He was the only Sikh child in his public schools, and he went on to become the first Sikh American to be granted a religious accommodation to serve in the U.S. military since the ban on Sikhs in the 1980s. Today, despite his accommodation, the presumptive ban still remains against Sikh Americans who wish to serve in the armed forces, and Major Kalsi continues to dedicate much of his life towards working to end religious discrimination in the military.
Harpreet Kaur works as a Producer at Maryland Public Television and is the founder of Sach Productions, a media organisation that aims to create films to bring minority issues into the mainstream media. She was the first Sikh local news reporter in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.[header image]
Sonny Singh is an original member of the acclaimed Brooklyn Bhangra band, Red Baraat. Sonny has worked as a community organiser in various capacities, including for the Sikh Coalition, and he writes and leads workshops on race, religion and social justice.
A Q&A WITH AMIT AND NAROOP :
WERE THERE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PHOTOGRAPHING BRITISH AND AMERICAN SIKHS?
Yes, there were. When we photographed British Sikhs, the subjects didn’t know how big the project would become. They were nervous, even sceptical. Why would anyone want to see photographs of Sikh men?
When photographing the American Sikhs, they knew the impact the project could have. They realised the importance of spreading awareness of the identity of Sikhs.
In America, Sikhs are not always viewed in the same positive light as they are in the UK. American Sikhs face abuse, misunderstanding and bigotry based on their articles of faith. The American public in large still don’t fully understand what and who a Sikh is.
For this reason, the American subjects were proud to be involved, as they felt they were helping to make a change.
WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION FOR DOING AN AMERICAN VERSION OF THE PROJECT?
We knew there was a demand as we received numerous emails for Americans telling us the American public needed to see the exhibition. From the Kickstarter campaign we ran to fund the exhibition, a significant proportion were American.
Then the Sikh Coalition got in touch, encouraging us to do an American project and telling us why the project could have so much impact in the States.
We knew that art can inspire change, and we felt by doing an American version of the project, we could impact a larger audience.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE SUBJECTS?
We worked with The Sikh Coalition to find American Sikhs who not only had an individual style of wearing their turbans, but also had an inspiring or important story.
One thing we realised when we hosted the UK Singh exhibitions, was that people wanted to know more about the subjects. Yes, the photograph was important, but people wanted a little more.
So in the American Sikh Project, each subject was hand selected for what they had achieved or for they have experienced.
We also held an open casting call on The Singh Project Facebook page. Potential subjects were asked to send in photographs of themselves plus the reasons why they felt they should be considered.
WHY HAVE YOU CREATED THE SIKH PROJECT BOOK?
The UK Singh project and the U.S Sikh projects have impacted thousands of people with the exhibition and online images, but we really want to create a lasting change.
Once the exhibitions stop, we still want people to feel inspired by the photographs, and nothing lives on like a book.
We feel that The Sikh Project isn’t just for Sikhs. It’s for everyone.
At its core, the project is about identity. Pride. Not conforming. Individuality.
In this day and age, no one should feel that they need to fit in. Being like everyone else is boring. Staying true to who you are takes courage.
The book, that will contain seventy two portraits, combining the UK and U.S projects, will also feature back stories of each subject. Our aim is that it will inspire others to have pride in who they are, Sikh or not. If the subjects, some of who have faced bullying and horrific persecution, can stay true to their identity, then there is no reason why anybody else can’t.
WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE SIKH PROJECT BOOK?
We are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the book.
You can read information about it here: www.kickstarter.com/projects/205078810/the-sikh-project-book