Sarah K. Khan">
Sarah K. Khan

In recent years artist Sarah K. Khan has become known for her portraits of both India’s women farmers and the men who work as spice porters on the subcontinent. Her work is now being displayed in a new, 24/7 exhibition in New York City.

Titled “In/Visible: Portraits of Farmers and Spice Porters of India,” Khan’s series of portraits was unveiled at New York University’s Kimmel Windows Galleries last week. The exhibition features images of 13 women farmers from across India as well as photos of men known as “Porters of Taste” who work in Old Delhi’s famous spice market. The men featured originally hail from Bihar, Kashmir, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal.

“These men and women are dealing with the daily challenges of life, and are often living close to the edge,” Khan said in a statement. “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.”

The fact that many of the portraits are of Old Delhi residents is particularly meaningful for the Pakistani-American Khan. Her family traces its roots to the city before the 1947 Partition. Khan’s father and his family lived in Old Delhi after moving to the city from Simla and Amritsar.

The women farmers photographed for the series are from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Nagaland, Rajasthan and Telangana. Khan traveled to each farm while working on the project from 2014 to 2015. Exhibition curator Grace Aneiza Ali said one of the exhibition’s strengths was that it gets visitors to think about the origins of the foods and spices they use each day.

“Khan’s portraits offer us a stark reminder of the women and men whose love, labor, and toil are responsible for the food we indulge in at our tables,” said Ali. “As [visitors] engage with these 13 stunning portraits, we hope it serves as an opening for meaningful public discourse about our roles and responsibilities as we consume the labor of others.”

Image credit: Sarah K. Khan

Related coverage: Chef Maneet Chauhan on the Evolution of Indian Food in the U.S.A


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