Looking for Ourselves: Gauri Gill’s The Americans, 2000–2007

Throughout her practice, New Delhi-based photographer Gauri Gill (b. 1970) has followed individuals on the periphery—indigenous people, subordinate castes, small farmers, nomads, and laborers. Her work defies the media’s simplistic depictions of their plight by uncovering the intricacies of their daily lives, “things that are familiar and therefore not exotic, but never ordinary.”  


Looking for Ourselves continues this ethos, seeking to understand South Asian immigrants’ search for their own American identity. The photographs that make up The Americans, 2000–2007 reveal the discoveries of Gill’s seven-year journey from rural towns to metropolitan cities around the United States. Despite taking the name of Swiss American photographer Robert Frank’s iconic 1958 photo documentary project, Gill’s work entirely breaks from his photographs of life across America as an outsider. Before and after 9/11, she drew on the lived histories of her own family and friends to cultivate deeply personal portraits. 

The title of this exhibition comes from the powerful act of looking for ourselves within the family album. Evoking the commemorative and happenstance moments found in family albums, Gill’s work engages with family photographs as sites for “articulation and aspiration,” a framework proposed by visual studies scholar Tina Campt. The stories that emerge from the family album are dynamic, allowing viewers to envision their familial identity, attainment of aspirations, and sense of belonging and loneliness in America. In the thirty-four works from the extensive series on view in this exhibition, Gill encourages viewers “to enter the frame” and actively engage in a dialogue with her subjects. The work provokes the pondering of the paradoxes of American existence riddled with poverty, success, xenophobia, and acceptance. Simultaneously, it prompts the consideration of the constant mining and renegotiation of dreams and realities of American life. In what Gill calls “a kind of family album,” she sparks thoughtful questioning of what it means to be South Asian in America as well as what immigrant claims to Americanness entail.


The curator invites you to contribute to The South Asian Americans, an Instagram-based archive. Coinciding with this exhibition, this archive-in-the-making is inspired by Gauri Gill’s belief that “every person's story is equally valid.” This project invites individuals who identify as South Asian American to share snapshots and stories from their family albums.

Submission Guidelines:

  1. Any photograph of South Asians in America (non-US citizens are welcome) from 1965-2010
  2. Approximate date of the photograph
  3. Your name
  4. An anecdote about what the photograph means to your identity & experience in America
  5. Submission via direct message to @thesouthasianamericans on Instagram

(Note: By submitting a photograph you are confirming that you have the authority to permit public-facing publication of anyone pictured within the image)


This project is an independent initiative by Roma Patel.