"Embrace" by Rohina Hoffman, a homage to family and food
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"Embrace" by Rohina Hoffman, a homage to family and food
Rohina Hoffman, "Steamed Artichoke", clip worn cellulose, lemon, garlic, one bay leaf, the midwives tending. All artwork and poetry copyright Rohina Hoffman.

NEW YORK, NY.- "The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live. The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on. We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it. It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it. We make women." —Joy Harjo, 23rd United States Poet Laureate.

Isolated in the confinement of her Los Angeles home during the covid lockdown, Indian-born American artist Rohina Hoffman takes us on a metaphorical journey connecting her roots to food through the rituals of daily meals. In Embrace, Rohina combines two photographic projects.

In Gratitude is an homage to food and family. Created during the early days of the pandemic, it is a series of portraits of Rohina, her husband, and her three children showcasing the fresh produce they use to create their daily meals. The photographs are "seasoned" with Hoffman’s poetry. The act of creating photographs and preparing food became an almost meditative practice, offering structure and grounding during times of great unknowns.

Generation 1.75 is a visual memoir that explores identity, belonging, and the complexities of acculturation. Born in India in 1968, Rohina was raised by her grandparents until age 5 when she was reunited with her parents and began a new life in America.

For Hoffman, photographing family members holding dinner ingredients turned into a tool of expressing new deep gratitude for the food. She often thought of all the effort and the hands that had touched the produce before it ended up with her family. The food also became the means of connecting with her family members and reconnecting with her Indian roots in a more profound way.

As part of Generation 1.5/1.75 (a term coined by Professor Ruben Rumbaut in 1969 to distinguish those who immigrate as children from their parents who immigrate as adults), Rohina has struggled with issues of identity and the feeling of “Otherness”. Her essay, 'Not All Peacocks are Blue', published in English and translated into Hindi as well, provides a deeper look into the photographer's background from her early childhood through the present and serves as a bridge between the two projects.

Family ephemera in the book includes an early snapshot of Rohina with her beaming grandparents with grandpa holding her and offering her an egg, a reproduction of a handwritten recipe for baingan bharta (eggplant punjabi style) from her mother, and Rohina's cancelled Indian passport.

Embrace also includes essays by Paula Tognarelli, the former Executive Director of the Griffin Museum of Photography, and Geeta Kothari, senior editor of the Kenyon Review. The book is designed by Caleb Cain Marcus, head of the design studio Luminosity Lab.

Born in India and raised in New Jersey, Rohina grew up in a family of doctors spanning three generations. While an undergraduate at Brown University, Rohina also studied photography at the Rhode Island School of Design and she was a staff photographer for the Brown Daily Herald. A graduate of Brown University Medical School and resident at UCLA Medical Center, her training led to a career as a neurologist.

A skilled observer of her patients, Rohina was instilled with a deep and unique appreciation of the human experience. Her ability to forge the sacred trust between doctor and patient has been instrumental in fostering a parallel connection between photographer and subject.

Rohina published her first monograph Hair Stories with Damiani Editore (February 2019) accompanied by a solo exhibition at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School. Her monograph, Hair Stories, is held in many public collections and university libraries.

In 2021, she was the winner of the Altanta Photography Group’s Purchase Award and several of her prints were acquired by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.

Her photographs have been exhibited in juried group shows both nationally and internationally in venues such as The Center for Fine Art Photography, Griffin Museum, Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Los Angeles Center for Photography, Photo LA, and A. Smith Gallery. She has received numerous awards and has been published in Marie Claire Italia, F-Stop Magazine, The Daily Beast, Lenscratch, Shots Magazine, and Edge of Humanity among others. She lives with her husband, three children and two golden retrievers in Los Angeles.

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