A public transportation employee, a professional trumpet player, and a high school student. A new portrait series celebrates Sikh Americans and how they incorporate religious identity into their daily lives.
"Here are a group of people who wear turbans on their heads and don't cut their hair," London-based photographers Amit and Naroop wrote in an email to TakePart. "They do this with pride. It is not a fashion accessory. It is fundamental to who they are."
The pair revealed their first iteration of the photo series in the U.K. in 2014, featuring 36 British Sikhs. This year, they teamed up with the New York–based Sikh Coalition to photograph American Sikhs, and their work will be featured in September in an installation commemorating the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Sikhs experienced a spike in persecution and hate crimes in much the same way Muslim Americans did. Both male and female adherents of Sikhism often refrain from cutting their hair and wear turbans to demonstrate devotion to their faith.
"The consequences of 9/11 were disastrous," Amit and Naroop wrote. "One subject we photographed for the exhibition told [us] before 9/11 people would look at him and say, 'Hey, there is a genie.' After 9/11 they would say, 'Hey, there is a terrorist.' "
Many of the series' subjects have experienced discrimination, but all have stayed true to their beliefs in the face of bigotry—a commitment the photographers hope will inspire gallerygoers.
"People viewing the images or attending the exhibition should feel like they have gained some knowledge about Sikhs, but also some more knowledge about themselves," the pair wrote. "They have just seen a bunch of people who will stay true to their beliefs regardless of persecution and prejudice. The question is, would you be willing to do the same? Would you stand up for what you believe in?"