Sikh photographer wins Portrait of Britain 2021


Jaskirt Boora (left) with her two award-winning entries

By Asia Samachar Team | Britain |

Capturing the resilience of frontliners landed Sikh photographer Jaskirt Boora a spot among the winners of the Portrait of Britain 2021.

The Birmingham-born photographer captured the extraordinary commitment of members of the health service when she came face to face with Dr Jaskaran Singh Mavi.

Dr Mavi, a frontline doctor at Heartlands hospital during the pandemic, was on the medical emergencies ward.

“At its worst our staffing was so stretched we had doctors deployed in areas of the hospital they hadn’t practiced in for 15 or 20 years,” he told Jaskirt, as reported in The Guardian.

He added: “We had a gynaecologist managing my ward for a week. Medical students were stepping up as doctors, consultants were working in different specialities and there was no sense of hierarchy. That completely went. And morale was so high.”

The photograph was among the 100 selected to win the Portrait of Britain 2021 organised by the 1854 Media and British Journal of Photography (BJP).

Jaskirt also won the first prize winner of the RBSA Photography Prize 2021. Here, the winning entry was the art work of Aabidah Shah from the series Birmingham Lockdown Stories 2020.

Asia Samachar interviewed Jaskirt. Here are excerpts from the email interview:

Tell us a little bit about your background?

I’m an 80s baby and was born and grew up in Birmingham. My parents immigrated from the Panjab in 1970s, I am currently making a book about the migration of my family from the Panjab to the UK called Mitti di Khushboo.  I studied Communication, Culture and Media at Coventry University and that’s where I first picked up a camera, a Mamiya 7ii, and started taking photos.

And what about your parents?

My parents, like many immigrants in that time, first met when my mom came to England, and soon after they were married. Dad has been a bus driver and taxi driver, working in the foundaries when he was younger. My mom has been a shopkeeper and run the family business for the best part of 35years.

What inspires you as an artist?

I’m inspired by the people I meet and local communities I work with. I find a lot of news very triggering, there is so many negative stories and events happening in the world, be it violence against women, gender inequality or racism. The work I make as an artist tries to readdress this balance of the visual imagery we see online and in real life, which can often be negative or reinforce stereotypes and unconscious bias. I draw my inspiration from social activism and in my own quiet way I am make work for outdoor exhibitions that is more hopeful and positive, to shine a light on marginalised communities and amplify the voices of people that are often unheard or misrepresented.

Covid-19 pandemic frontliner Frontliner Dr Jaskaran Singh in a protrait captured by Jaskirt Boora, a winning entry for Portrait of Britain

Is this your main vocation or do you do something else as well?

I mix my photographic practice with teaching. I lecture at Birmingham City university 2 days a week, and the rest of my working week I dedicate to my visual arts practice, making work for exhibitions. Currently I am working on a big project for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Cultural Festival, I have spent the last year taking photographs of grassroots sports across the region which will be exhibited in outdoor spaces across Birmingham and Sandwell from March 2022 and during the official Commonwealth Games.

What would you like to tell our readers?

I think in our culture we are often told the arts are not a worthwhile career, but we need more balance in the arts and culture so that we see a bigger range of work and stories come through. The arts is crucial in helping us to understand the world around us, and we only get to hear the voices of diverse communities in the mainstream if we are on the ground making the work. So I would encourage you to pursue your passions and tell stories that you care about and believe in. 


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