Photos explore the identities of American Sikhs

Two British photographers, Amit Amin and Naroop Singh, have launched an exhibition featuring portraits of 38 American Sikhs from all walks of life.

The Sikh Project, recently on view in Manhattan, was sponsored by the Sikh Coalition, a New York–based advocacy group that highlights the contributions of Sikhs to U.S. society. There are some 500,000 Sikhs in the United States. Sikhs have lived in the country for more than 125 years.

Ishprit Kaur of Connecticut, shown above, emigrated from India with her family when she was 2 and grew up to choose a nursing career because her father suffers from Parkinson’s disease. At 18, Kaur began wearing a turban, or dastaar (a practice mostly associated with Sikh men). “I felt ready to wear my crown and my faith proudly,” she says.

Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi

Man wearing military uniform and turban (© Amit and Naroop/The Sikh Coalition)
Kamal Singh Kalsi (© Amit and Naroop/The Sikh Coalition)

A major in the U.S. Army, Kamal Singh Kalsi is also a physician who sports a beard and turban. Born to an Indian family with a long military tradition, Kalsi (like Kaur) arrived in the U.S. as a young child. Today, he lives in New Jersey.

He has served in Afghanistan, where he saved countless lives. His turban and beard didn’t matter to patients whose wounds he treated, he told the Sikh Coalition: “All that mattered was whether I was an asset to our mission.”

Harpreet Kaur

Woman wearing a turban (© Amit and Naroop/The Sikh Coalition)
Harpreet Kaur (© Amit and Naroop/The Sikh Coalition)

No relation to Ishprit, Harpreet Kaur is a filmmaker in Ellicott City, Maryland. She’s been directing award-winning documentaries on social issues for more than a decade.

Ravinder Singh Bhalla

Close-up portrait of man wearing business suit and turban (© Amit and Naroop/The Sikh Coalition)
Ravinder Singh Bhalla (© Amit and Naroop/The Sikh Coalition)

The son of Sikh immigrants, Ravinder Singh Bhalla was born in New Jersey and as an adult ran for a city council seat in Hoboken. He won, becoming the first Sikh elected official in New Jersey’s history. He’s been serving in that capacity for eight years.

While the Sikh faith is not as well known in the U.S. as some religions, The Sikh Project is helping to address any lack of understanding, according to Amin and Singh, who are compiling a book of images from their exhibitions.