An exhibition of portraits by Sarah K Khan, titled In/Visible: Portraits of Farmers and Spice Porters of India, is currently on display at New York University’s Kimmel Windows Galleries. Khan, a Pakistani-American multimedia artist and scholar with a practice focused on food, culture, women, and migrants, shot the images over the course of a year, from 2014 to 2015. Talking to Scroll, Khan said
“A large majority of them come from farming background [. . .] These men become the designated family member to travel to the city to bring in some cash while the rest stay behind and tend to their farms. The reasons for migrations are many and Old Delhi and Khari Baoli overflow with much migrant diversity. I want to highlight that most migrants anywhere work hard to make a living with dignity, and I wanted to capture them as individuals with vibrant personalities.”
Also included in the exhibition are portraits that Khan took of women farmers as a Senior Research Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in India, when she documented in multiple media women farmers and bore witness to their plight.
“There are 95 million women farmers in India [. . .] Their informal labour and their extraordinary contributions are undervalued. They are encyclopedias of information and ecological knowledge about a specific place. The women I engaged with are seed savers, growers of crops, foragers, hunters and food processors, and culinary experts. I worked with Mirasi caste singers in Rajasthan, Siddi women farmers in Karnataka, women rice farmers in Nagaland, Adivasis in Telangana, millet processors in Andhra, and women street vendors in Delhi. All of them struck a chord with me.”
In a news release, Khan spoke about her practice, rooted in dialogue and relationship. “These men and women are dealing with the daily challenges of life, and are often living close to the edge,” she says. “I portray them as they would want to be portrayed. I engage in a slower photography, taking time to get to know my subjects so that the portraits come from a place of empathy and respect.”