Tell me a bit about yourself in your own words. Natalie: I'm a writer, musician…
SukhpreetGxrl Gaze California
28 April 2020
Before quarantine, we had a chance to sit down with Sukhpreet (@thirddoorontheright), a Los Angeles-based holistic practitioner, tarot reader, community organiser, and photographer. Their work focuses on people who exist at margins, liminality as a superpower, fresh perspectives on intimacy, and shifting the Western gaze to include wider and more egalitarian perspectives.
Tell us a bit about yourself in your own words.
Sukhpreet: I identify with the liminal, the middle and the in-between. This understanding has come from my experience with gender binaries. I found myself being pulled between both extremes, and pressured to choose one [a particular gender]. I then realised the most integrated place for me is where they both meet and merge into one. This process spreads across my life and my understanding of who I am
What are your astrological placements?
Sukhpreet: I usually like keeping these main three to myself until I trust someone, blame my Scorpio Rising and Pluto in the first house, but I’ll be open. I’m a Gemini Sun with a Taurus Moon. I really enjoy the way these diverse placements add complexity and depth to my overall being.
Are you a Los Angeles native? What’s been your journey, and where are you from? What brought you here?
Sukhpreet: I’m not a native of Tongva Land/LA. I was born and raised in Sacramento, California to both Punjabi and Sikh immigrants. I came to Los Angeles because I felt excited, nurtured and fulfilled by the QTPoCB+ (Queer and Trans People of Colour +) community here.
Living here has broadened my chosen family. When I was here initially last summer, I was encouraged and supported by a lot of folks to pursue my desires. I followed my potential to transform and decided to step into a new version of myself in a different environment. I also craved a more expansive city once again after living in New York for two and a half years.
What do you usually seek in subjects that you photograph?
Sukhpreet: Emotion and depth. I really dislike flat or forced imagery. Emotion doesn’t have to mean expressive or dramatic, and can be conveyed through the eyes alone. It requires presence, and for the subject to be open and vulnerable enough to forgo time momentarily and meditate on stillness.
What camera do you shoot on? What’s your favourite time of day to shoot?
Sukhpreet: I’m saving to buy more cameras, I only have the Hasselblad 503cx right now. It’s a beautiful, sharp and sentimental camera for me. I bought it as a gift to myself for my solar return in 2018. My favourite time of day to take photos is moments after dawn or during the sunset that precedes dusk.
What makes Los Angeles a perfect place for you to work/collaborate?
Sukhpreet: Mostly my fellow collaborators. There are so many profound, determined and creative folks in this city.
Tell us a bit about your experience getting involved with tarot. What inspired you to start reading and do you have a card that’s followed you a lot throughout your life?
Sukhpreet: I started reading tarot in the winter of 2016, when a friend passed the practice on to me. Initially I was reading a lot for others, I kept doing it because folks really appreciated the insights and would mention how the reading affected their life moving forward. I don’t have one card that’s followed me through my life per se, it fluctuates.
Once I grasped the archetypes embedded in tarot, I drew parallels to them in various forms of media, stories and personalities and realised that the cards were in my life all along. Right now, the tarot card Temperance has a significant space in what I’m learning and working through.
Tell us a bit about your work as a community organiser. What projects are you currently involved in?
Sukhpreet: When I moved back to Sacramento in 2016 from Brooklyn, I reconnected with a lot of friends and was staying at my mom’s. That year was stark politically and on an individual level, and I had gone through a whirlwind through the healthcare industry, medical treatment and healing. Trump was elected, and I cried watching the ballots come in on my laptop for the suburban home I was born and raised in.
I felt so defeated, so weak and helpless in so many ways. I felt so upset and questioned what I could possibly do in the world from my phone, laptop and little resources. I questioned what I could do in a body that needed to rest and recoup. I had a group chat with some friends and I was sending updates on what was going on with the water protectors and the Dakota Access Pipeline. We were all so distraught with the mistreatment of indigenous folks, the land and the disregard for the harm the pipeline would cause.
We decided that we could take action into our own hands and organise a benefit charity show.We showcased local artists, voiced how we felt about our world and the political climate, and raised donations for those on the frontline of this fight..
From then forward I’ve organised a series of events. I was a part of The Angry Bindi (@theangrybindi) that is halted for now, with the hope to revive it with workshops and discussions in LA and the Bay area), I also co-host a pirate radio show (@gulab__gang) with my friend and roommate Brinda and hope to organise more in Tongva Land/LA now that I’m back from traveling.
How has your style evolved over the years?
Sukhpreet: I still love all-black, statement pieces, my mother’s jewellery, hosting clothing swaps and never straightening my hair. If anything my style has gotten sharper but it’s remained true at the core.
Can you talk to us about your work as a holistic practitioner?
Sukhpreet: So far, most of my holistic work has focused around offering psycho-spiritual tarot readings and astrology-chart readings. I’ve facilitated moon rituals and co-organized one moon retreat with my friend Sunshine (Sam) this past summer in the Sequoia National Forest. I want to delve deeper into herbalism, botany, death doula work, and merging the traditions of Sikhi I was raised into with aspects of my other practices.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Sukhpreet: I really stray away from remorse and regret because it takes away my ability to remain present and secure in my life as it is. Getting lost in “what if’s” can be a dangerous wormhole. In terms of lessening the pain I went through in the past, I would’ve told myself to choose myself earlier on, outside of familial, societal, social and romantic expectations. I would’ve encouraged myself to feel less guilt and shame for prioritizing my desires.
What are you most excited about for 2020?
Do you have any favorite artists at the moment? If so, who, and what work of theirs has inspired you?
Sukhpreet: I came across Samuel Eder’s work recently that he found while traveling with his partner. The findings were from Soviet-Era Ukraine. I was awe-struck by the photos, and the physical effects on the film. I found parallels between some of the damaged film and a double exposure I took of my friend Vishal. His work also encouraged me to continue documentation, further my pursuit of photojournalism and storytelling through traveling.
Other work I admire currently is the Exiles series by Sunil Gupta
Opening image by Sukhpreet @thirddoorontheright. Portraits of Sukhpreet taken by Sarah Alikhan exclusively for YEOJA Mag. For more Gxrl Gaze articles, click here.