December 2013. I was on a photography trip to Bikaner, in the deserts of Rajasthan, India. Near the busy train station, I saw a man I wanted to photograph. I hesitated. The look in his eye and his stony, stern look intimidated me. It's always that moment of hesitation that kills a shot! I ended up avoiding him and photographing other subjects until I heard his jovial voice, "Take my picture too!".
Camera lens focused, my finger poised to fire. 'Smile', I called out. And he was transformed. His face radiated warmth, his eyes sparkled with a humor I had completely missed. Even his posture softened. I knew then what my next photo series would be. So 'I asked them to smile' was born. I wanted to document the effect of the human smile on a stranger's face.
In the days, months, and years that followed, I asked random people on my travel photography adventures (mostly on the streets of India) to pose unsmiling and with a smile. These beautiful photos are the heart of my project. Its goal is to recreate the mindset from which we view a stranger, and then witness as our assumptions transform with their smile.
So there are no names. No occupations. No confirmed religions or ethnicity. No intriguing life lessons or heart strumming anecdotes. Just one human face. Before and after. Without, and with a smile.