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by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

Meet Simrah Farrukh, the Photographer Who’s All About South Asian Representation

At 23, Simrah Farrukh is producing critically acclaimed art that challenges the status quo. Her work is immediately distinguishable due to its muted colours, grainy composition and hazy, “dream-like” quality. The American-Pakistani’s photography focuses on the intersection of fashion, women’s empowerment, and tackling issues like colourism and eurocentrism. 

From spotlighting South Asian women as models to showcasing South Asian LGBTQ love, Simrah’s work centres on the South Asian community and extends to a range of subjects across genders, sexualities, and physical appearances. She’s also worked with notable clients like Netflix, ELLE Magazine, Stella McCartney and The New York Times.

We chat virtually with Simrah to learn more about her work, why South Asian representation matters to her, and how she practises self-care.

How did your relationship with photography begin? Did you try other forms of creative expression before finding your niche?

My memories with photography begin all the way back to when I was little and my father and uncle would use their cameras to document me, my brother’s and my cousin’s childhood. Before trying it out myself, I loved drawing images of girls in stylish outfits, which were probably influenced by my Bratz dolls (laughs). I love trying all forms of art—they’re all therapeutic to me. 

How would you say your upbringing and culture influence your work? 

My culture influences my work in many ways—from its art to its social issues. When you’re immersed in your culture growing up, it leaves an impression in everything you do, make and create.

What does your creative process look like?

Seeking inspiration, developing the concept, research, finding a team, shooting and editing! It seems simple, but it takes a lot of work and time. 

How do you choose the themes and subjects in your work? What is it about South Asian women that interest you the most?

I choose people who leave an impression on me. I have a pretty good intuition, so I don’t choose anyone whose values don’t align with me and my work.

“With other South Asian women, I feel a connection and a sense of sisterhood. I want to uplift these voices within my community that are often suppressed or ignored.”

Although South Asian women are my primary focus, my work extends to all Black and women of colour. 

What messages do you hope your audience will understand when looking at your photography? In what ways do you think your work is breaking barriers in South Asian female representation? 

When I create work showcasing South Asian women, it typically is for other brown women to feel safe and like they belong. When non-South Asians look at my work, I hope they just see us as any other human. There’s nothing exotic about us—we just have different customs and traditions. Bollywood has ingrained in people’s minds what a South Asian woman should look like; I hope to change that with my work.

What does female empowerment look like for you?

Female empowerment to me is bringing each other up and throwing away any feelings of competition. 

Let’s talk about your beauty routine. What does it look like? Talk us through your skincare routine and your favourite beauty products.

My beauty routine is pretty simple. I used to suffer from severe cystic acne when I was a teenager, which meant I’ve tried out a lot of different products. Slowly, I used fewer products and my skin started to get better.

Now, I just cleanse with a Cerave cleanser, then a vitamin C serum by Soma Ayurvedic, followed by Supergoop’s sunscreen. I finish off with a lip balm by Pure Sabun, a small business run by my friend’s mom!

Are you a no-makeup makeup person, or actually no makeup?

It depends. Sometimes I like to enhance some parts of my face just a little bit, and other times I will let my skin breathe.

Which beauty standards are you passionate about disrupting?

I’m all for emphasising features rather than changing the look of it completely. 

How do you think people can mindfully practise self-acceptance and self-love?

Start with small acts first. Maybe it’s drinking an extra glass of water because you know your body would appreciate it or adding 10 minutes to your work break because you know your mind will appreciate it.

Can you share what projects you are working on next?

I am working on more projects that touch on the theme of community growth and unity. I don’t want to give too much away, but it will play with intentional colour palettes and compositions!

What are your goals in the future? What are you working towards?

As of now, I am working towards working with publications or brands for campaigns and editorial shoots! As for my personal work, I would love to have it up in a museum space one day. Slowly, but surely it will all come into place!

Simrah’s Beauty Picks

Köppen Ayurvedics Cosmic Veil | Rosehip & Hibiscus Face & Body Lotion, USD35
As I Am Jamaican Black Castor Oil Smoothie, SGD22
Soma Ayurvedic Vitamin C Serum – Citrus and Rose, USD118
Kulfi Beauty Underlined Kajal Eyeliner, USD20

If you liked Simrah’s story, there’s plenty more to come. Hit that ‘Sign Up’ button at the bottom to receive the latest updates.