We’ve always been told to never talk to strangers because a stranger is unknown, and it’s often the unknown that scares us. Meet Jay Weinstein, a Mumbai-based, Hindi-speaking photographer of Australian-American-Ukrainian-English heritage, who is wants to change the way you look at strangers.
Weinstein is the man behind the inspirational photo series So I Asked Them to Smile, a minimalist photography project exploring the smile of strangers.
He shares his inspiration of the project on his Facebook page:
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.
The look in his eye and his stony, stern face 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 project would be.
So I asked them to smile was born. I wanted to document the effect of the human smile on a strangers face.
In the days, months and years that followed, I asked random people on my photography adventures (mostly on the streets of India) to pose unsmiling and with a smile. These images 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 confirmed religions or ethnicity.
No intriguing life lessons or heart strumming anecdotes.
Just one human face.
Without, and with a smile.
So I asked them to smile is a gallery of strangers, each of which are shown with and without a smile. Here’s a collection of some of the best photos from the project:
1. Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
2. Hampi, Karnataka
3. Juhu, Mumbai
4. Tyrna Village, Meghalaya
5. Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
6. Khonoma, Nagaland
7. Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
8. Jagannath Puri, Odisha
9. Latikynsew Village, Meghalaya
10. Bagru Village, Rajastan
11. Bandra, Mumbai
12. Juhu Beach, Mumbai
13. Danda Village Jetty, Mumbai
14. Kakhsar Village, Gujarat
15. Outside St Xavier College, Mumbai
16. Rar Village, Uttar Pradesh
17. Juhu Beach, Mumbai
18. Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
19. Kohima, Nagaland
20. Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
21. Tyrna Village, Meghalaya
22. Barsana, Uttar Pradesh
23. Pune Maharashtra, India