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Your perception of strangers will change after seeing these pictures.

January 2014. I traveled to Bikaner, located in Rajasthan, India, on a photographic trip. I noticed a man I wanted to capture close to the crowded railway station. I was uneasy. I felt scared by his hard, austere demeanor and the gleam in his eye. The split second of indecision always ends a shot! I eventually avoided him and took pictures of other objects until I overheard his cheery voice saying, “Take my picture too!”

My finger was prepared to press the shutter while the camera lens was focussed. I yelled, “Smile.” And then he changed. He had a kind demeanor, and his eyes gleamed with a sense of humor I had totally missed. Even his stance relaxed. Then, I knew what my upcoming photo series would be. So, the phrase “I begged them to grin” was formed. I wanted to document the effect of the human smile on a stranger’s face.

On my vacation photography experiences (mainly in the streets of India) in the days, months, and years that followed, I randomly approached strangers and requested them to pose both grinning and without smiling. The center of my project is these exquisite photographs. It aims to mimic the frame of mind in which we perceive a stranger before watching as our presumptions are altered by their grin.

Since names are absent, There are no jobs. No acknowledged ethnicities or faiths. There are no heartwarming tales or insightful life lessons. one face only, human. Prior to and following both without and while grinning.

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Written by Judy Philomen

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