Turbans & Timeless Faith: A Photographer Capturing The Complexities Of Sikh Identity

Turbans & Timeless Faith: A Photographer Capturing The Complexities Of Sikh Identity
Farheen F

Chandigarh based photographer and visual storyteller Farheen Fatima has a unique style that makes her work easy to recognise from the rest. Trying to capture the beauty in both the extraordinary and the ordinary, her portraits are both strikingly raw and stunningly natural.

Her photos are a beautiful combination of fine art, fantasy, fashion, landscapes, and atmospheres. If you scroll through her Instagram, you’ll notice that most posts are accompanied by a strong concept along with the story behind each shoot.

Through her work, the artist tries to capture the intricacies of human relationships, memory and her connection with nature. Sparking an undeniable relationship with her hometown Chandigarh, Farheen’s exploration of the city’s cultural kaleidoscope is one to dive deep into.

While she herself doesn’t belong to the Sikh community, her work portrays an admirable insight into the idea of community and the social self. Farheen spent long hours studying and observing Punjab’s culturally vibrant identity that is marked by symbols of faith often marked by bright turbans, long hair, a warm disposition and a long-standing belief in ‘Sarbat da bhala’ (blessings for everyone).

Choosing to uncover the theme of Sikh identity from a purely artistic lens, the photographer’s striking series namely ‘three turban men’ and ‘the garden’ are a simple reflection of the norms and social integration of the Sikh community.

Getting candid about the garden series, Farheen recalls that the origin of the visual project is tied with her observation of lush green parks being a constant backdrop setting in old school Punjabi family albums and nostalgic tales of yesteryears. Chandigarh’s love affair with its affluent architecture and picturesque represent a strong cultural connection that has cemented itself throughout generations.

A silent yet succinct witness to the city’s romances, youthful naivety and a true representation of the cycle of growth is what Farheen tries to capture in the garden series.

Fatima’s series ‘Three Turban Men’ follows the traditional, base format of a group portrait. The group is composed of three figures in every picture against the backdrop of seasonal bougainvillea. Throughout the series, the figures remain constant in bright-hued turbans against a floral setting. In this way, by slipping an effeminate and unconventional portrayal of turbaned men, the artist aims to shun the macho-esque stereotypes often attached to Sikh identities.

Challenging the oppressive standards of a patriarchal society that categorizes men to be fit in the tall dark and handsome category, the photo series challenges viewer’s fixed beliefs, the historical canon of Sikh identity, and challenges people to look at the social context of all of these preconceived notions more broadly.

You can view her work here.

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